Home News Stories 2006 June Human Trafficking Intelligence Report
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Human Trafficking Intelligence Report

Human Trafficking
An Intelligence Report


Blurred photo of prostitution encounterIt’s a thriving international business in our increasingly interconnected global economy, generating some $9 billion in profits every year. Only it’s rooted in one of the world’s oldest evils—the enslavement of human beings.

It’s called “human trafficking”…and it involves buying, selling, and smuggling people—often women and children—and forcing them into what amounts to modern-day slavery.

How big is the problem? Very big. According to the State Department, up to two million people are trafficked worldwide every year, with an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 in the U.S., causing untold suffering.

How are victims “recruited”? Sometimes by force, but usually by fraud. Victims are lured away from family and friends by the promise of a better life, often in another country. For traffickers, there’s no shortage of victims—people eager for higher-paying jobs and other opportunities in distant cities and nations.

What kinds of work are victims forced to do? Both legal and illegal. Everything from prostitution to exotic dancing…from street peddling to housekeeping…from child care to construction and landscaping. Some victims are forced to work in restaurants and factories and are drawn into servile marriages and various criminal activities.

How are victims controlled? Many different ways: physically, through beatings, burnings, rapes, and starvation; emotionally, through isolation, psychological abuse, drug dependency, and threats against family members in home countries; and financially, through debt bondage and threat of deportation.

Escape is difficult because victims are often “invisible”—in the U.S., for example, victims typically don’t speak English; they’re afraid to approach authorities because they don’t want to be deported; and they have no idea where they are or how to get help.

What about the traffickers? In the U.S., they’re often members of the victim’s own ethnic or national community…are here legally and maintain close contact with their home country…may be fluent in English and a native language…and may have greater social or political status in their home country than their victims.

Traffickers include:

  • International criminal syndicates with “diversified trafficking portfolios” that smuggle drugs and guns along with people and use the same routes for all three;
  • “Mom-and-pop” family operations that often have extended family on both sides of the border and lure victims by striking up romantic relationships;
  • Independently owned businesses with contractors/agents who provide laborers for menial jobs; and
  • Individuals, such as diplomats or foreign business executives who arrive with “servants,” pimps, and sometimes even neighbors and friends of the victim.

What we’re doing about the problem? Quite a bit, from our participation in local task forces and national initiatives…to our intelligence-based investigations. We’ve worked cases in 48 states so far. Here are a few recent examples:

  • On May 8, two men—one Salvadoran and one U.S. citizen—were convicted for their role in a sex-trafficking ring that smuggled Central and South American females into the U.S. for Houston area bars and restaurants.
  • On May 24, a Mexican man in Portland, Oregon, was charged with kidnapping a woman from Mexico, forcing her to work on his marijuana farm, and subjecting her to beatings, stabbings, and sexual assault.
  • On May 26, a Milwaukee couple—both doctors—were convicted of forcing a Philippine woman to work as their domestic servant for 19 years.

Are you a victim or do you think you may know one? Then please call your local FBI office or the Department of Justice trafficking hotline at 1-888-428-7581.