What is human trafficking? Eradicating the Myths
Stephania Caruana, Social Worker at Foundation of Social Welfare Services
Human trafficking is probably something we have all heard about. However, we do not always manage to grasp the complexity of this unfortunate phenomenon that is plaguing society.
Globally it is estimated that around 40.3 million people are victims of human trafficking. But what is human trafficking? In simple terms human trafficking is the process by which a person recruits another human being with the purpose of exploiting that person solely for personal gain. In this situation the victim is forced or placed in such a vulnerable position that it is hard to escape from the exploitation.
As a professional who have been working in the field of supporting victims of human trafficking for the past three years, I came to the understanding that there are still many myths and misconceptions about what constitutes human trafficking. I came across statements like “That person is not a victim of human trafficking because he could physically leave the place” or “That person applied for the job, she should have known better” or “That person is not a victim because there was no physical abuse”.
So let me take this opportunity to start eradicating some of these myths that still circulate around trafficking because maybe we have been bombarded by Hollywood films of what human trafficking should look like or maybe we want to convince ourselves that slavery is just a thing of the past and does not have a place in our modern world.
Firstly, traffickers know no boundaries and victims of human trafficking can be of any gender, age and nationality. A Maltese person can be a victim of human trafficking and can be exploited within this country. This means a victim is not necessarily snatched from one place and shipped to another country. Putting this into perspective, we can take the example of sex workers within the country that are controlled and forced by their pimps to provide sexual favors. The perpetrators can be both male and female and they can be known to the victims including family members or partners.
We have also learned that human trafficking victims will not always seek help when they are in public and the reason for this may vary. I am not excluding situations where victims have been chained, battered or placed in cells. However, so far this is not a situation we have encountered in Malta. Although physical abuse may be present, perpetrators have used other means to keep the victim under their control. This include taking away their passport, being threatened with deportation, threats to their family or psychological abuse.
We have also encountered instances where victims did not leave the situation because they were not aware this exploitation went against their human rights. This brings a situation to mind of a victim that was brought up from a young age to believe her role is to pleasure men. How could she dream of something better when from a young age she was treated as nothing more than a sex object to please men!
Some would also blame the victims for accepting the job in the first place and accept to pay the fee to come into the country. However, many would find the conditions of work change after they arrive in the country like; working from early morning till late evening, paid less than agreed or forced to work under duress Some victims recount that they could not leave because their family dependent on their money and others were threatened with harm if they did not pay the debts they were made to pay as agency fee.
We should stop making excuses of what we believe is human trafficking and start seeing the reality. A person should never be used as a commodity and it should never be justified to take advantage of another person’s vulnerability irrespective of age, nationality or gender.
Ending human trafficking is everyone’s responsibility and if you see something speak up or encourage the person to speak. Let us make a joint effort to stop this crime against humanity. Through the EU Project All Equal which supports victims of human trafficking and is funded by AMIF, the Foundation of Social Welfare Services are able to help the victims by providing shelter, psychosocial support and help to integrate and be an active member within our society. Call us on Supportline 179 or visit our Facebook Page – All Equal: Supporting Victims of Human Trafficking – for more information on this subject.
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