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Human Traffic – Global Epidemic

  • September 18th, 2007
  • Posted by Imogen Brennan

slavery-cofeurope.jpgThe United Nations and Council of Europe are trying for more joint government action against the new slavery.

More than 700,000 women are trafficked globally every year for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour.


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), working from Vienna, believes that human trafficking has become a global epidemic:

“Human trafficking is a global problem, which UNODC believes has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade,” it said this month (10.9.07).

“No country is immune, whether as a source, a destination or a transit point for victims of human trafficking.”

The agency has found that humans are trafficked for a range of reasons, but usually to work for free in dangerous situations.

Most victims of this modern-day slavery are women and young girls, many of whom are forced into prostitution or otherwise exploited sexually.

Trafficked men are found in fields, mines and quarries, or in other dirty and dangerous working conditions.

Boys and girls are trafficked into conditions of child labour, within a diverse group of industries, such as textiles, fishing or agriculture,” it says.

Victims are usually unable to escape slavery due to physical and psychological boundaries.

Trafficking victims are held in bondage through physical and/or psychological force; they are not free to walk away.

“Even if they had the ability to escape from their enslavement, typically they have nowhere to go – they often lack identity papers and have little or no money,” says the UNODC.

“Traffickers also threaten to harm the victims’ families as an additional deterrent against trying to flee.

“Many are ill: HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are common among women and girls forced into prostitution.”


The Council of Europe (COE) launched a fresh drive earlier this month to raise awareness through publications and seminars on the human trafficking within European countries.

The latest campaign, “Combat Trafficking in Human Beings” campaign began at Yerevan (Armenia), on 5-6.9.07.

The Strasbourg-based organisation of 47 member countries, with a long history of defending human rights, says it is targeting governments, parliamentarians, local and regional authorities, Non-government Organisations and civil society; looking for support.

It has declared there remains not enough awareness of the extent of the problem of trafficking in human beings in Europe; its international meetings bring together people with expertise in legislation, active investigation of crimes, and prosecutions.

The Council has been calling on member countries to adhere to its Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, with to date 28 signatories.


Council of Europe, “Action against trafficking in human beings”, Strasbourg, 5-6.9.07, (15.9.07)

UNODC, “UNODC launches global initiative …”, Vienna, 26.3.07, (10.9.07)


The Council of Europe strategy, Campaign to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, was launched in 2006 under the slogan “Human Being – Not for Sale.”