Human trafficking refers to illegally trading human beings for various purposes – usually sexual exploitation, slavery or cheap labor. While this might sound like something from the history books, and while you would hope that something so terrible couldn’t go on in a modern Western culture, unfortunately it is something that is still a very real problem even in what we would like to consider ‘civilized’ parts of the world. In fact, generating an estimated revenue of around $32 billion dollars, it is one of the fastest growing illegal activities in the world.
Europe is very much included in this figure and particularly Eastern Europe where over 200,000 women and children are sold for prostitution generating a profit of around $3 billion dollars a year. In 2010 a report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found that there were a minimum of 140,000 victims of trafficking in the content at that time. Often these victims are mislead and believe they have paid to be smuggled to another country to escape unemployment, domestic violence or other issues, only to find themselves trapped and being used for sex-slavery. While often this means places like Velesta, the majority of the trade is driven by the market for Eastern European prostitutes both in Western Europe and the US – with around 50% and 25% of the victims ending up in those areas respectively.
In light of the problem the European Committee of Ministers adopted the ‘Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings’ which opened for signing in Warsaw in 2005. This gives the powers that be more power to protect the victims of trafficking. The convention has established the ‘Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings’ (GRETA) with the intention of monitoring the process of trafficking in various countries and creating reports to help create preventative strategies. The European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe in Strassbourg have both passed judgements on a number of cases of trafficking where the local law was found to be insufficient. However these are still relatively small steps in what is a serious and continuously growing problem – a long battle lies ahead before the inhuman trade is extinguished permanently.