Rabbi Levi Lauer, executive director and founder of ATZUM, published on the eve
of Yom Kippur in The Jerusalem Post a moving supplication for an end to human
trafficking. Lauer can more intelligently talk about the human toll. I decided
to inquire, how big is this perverse business? Human trafficking is a global
enterprise. Entrepreneurs employ all the business principles for success. The
mission is to provide the best products (human beings) to fill the demands of
customers “to make them do whatever I want” for little or no pay in servitude
against the will of the workers, while entrepreneurs make significant profits
usually in cash.
The inventory, adults and children, are kidnapped or
purchased from brokers. Their work ranges from miners underground to
housekeepers and nannies. Boys and girls are prostitutes, child brides, or
beggars; others are in debt bondage.
Many are forced warriors fighting in
conflicts for warlords.
They are sold to factory managers making clothes
sold in the world’s most expensive stores. Involuntary organ removal for sale is
organized, marketed, or at the least sanctioned by governments.
trafficking in the Western Hemisphere began in the 1600s. A small group of
African blacks were kidnapped by the Spanish and forcefully baptized. Dutch
seized them in battle, and forced them into indentured servitude in American
colonies. The rapidly expanding agricultural economy throughout the Americas
demanded a greater supply of workers ending the policy of free men leaving the
plantations. The system evolved into slavery and sexual exploitation legitimized
and institutionalized by religious leaders and lawmakers.
of American families eventually owned four million slaves bought and sold in
public markets. Arab kidnappers sold Africans to Christian European brokers who
contracted ship owners to transport them, and paid government officials import
fees. Slaves numbered 12 million including the sugar colonies in the Caribbean
Attitudes to human trafficking even in enlightened nations are
slow to change. The US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was
passed, but not until 2000. 83% of the US Justice Department cases are sex
trafficking. Mexican, East European and Asian crime organizations are active
global business networks. After drug smuggling, their next largest source of
income is human trafficking in sexual slavery (46%), domestic servitude (27%),
agriculture (10%), and 17% in factories or other industries. Some groups
estimate there may be as many as 27 million people trafficked throughout the
world today. $39 billion per year is generated in sales according to The UN
Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
It is such a fast growing
industry that experts expect it to surpass drugs and arms trafficking in the
They advertise their wares like any other business on all
social and print media.
The UN Strategic Plan for 2012-2014 for combating
human trafficking woefully omits recommendations addressing the capture,
prosecution and imprisonment of traffickers and their coconspirators; the
confiscation of profits and assets is missing. There is no discussion of
sanctions against passthrough countries or destinations sites. The plan is inane
moral fetor without serious recommendations to “follow the money” that finds its
way into international banks already laundering drug profits from
International efforts to end human trafficking are insouciant
characterized by the plan as suffering “overlap and duplication of efforts, lack
of coordination, lack of consolidation of knowledge and inconsistent approaches
impeding... combating human trafficking.”
Criminal prosecution and
convictions are less than one for every 800 people trafficked.
country is left to its own initiatives for barriers to human trafficking. It’s
usually grass roots organizations that advocate for change convincing lawmakers
to pass legislation and for enforcement of the laws. Israel was publicly shamed
by a US task force report on human trafficking.
Israel’s homegrown action
task force, ATZUM, keeps pushing for actions with Israel marked as a major
destination point and transit center for thousands of prostitutes of all ages
trafficked from Russia and East European countries.
University professor Louise Shelley reported in a 2011 paper that what works for
licit businesses works for human traffickers. Entry costs are low; goods (the
victims) are easily and cheaply transported around the world,and product is
readily available from within their own ethnic communities. Her research
confirms, “profits are rarely confiscated, therefore this crime
Shelley offers some examples how big the sales are: two girls sold
$400,000 in services in 18 months; one call ring generates $7 million annually
with girls from post-Soviet states; and “Sister Ping had a $40m. business moving
A human traffickers price list with sources is available at
Some household name businesses are taking
action. Theguardian.com reports some are signing on to The Athens
Ethical Principles committing to “stamp out the use of trafficked labor by
Others are attaching “trafficking free” labels to their
clothing, conducting spot inspections of suppliers and social audits. It will
help if business stops treating it like a publicrelations problem, rather than a
human-rights issue charges one NGO advocate.
Perhaps the warning of Shel
Silverstein can be posted on the entrance to every door of Parliament and
Congress, as a reminder that “The googies are coming, the old people say, To buy
little children and take them away... and maybe tonight, To buy little children
and lock them up tight....”