Four Common Industries Used by Human Traffickers

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I've discussed several myths surrounding human trafficking, but this one really interested me. I wanted to talk about it! Another common myth surrounding human trafficking is that this crime only happens in underground or illegal industries. A large part of this belief is due to the stereotypes pushed by the media and Hollywood. For example, Liam Neeson's Taken showed his daughter get kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. I came across an article, where the author talked about the music video for Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga appeared to be kidnapped and sold into sex slavery and killed her buyer at the end. These cases can happen, but it's not as common as people believe. Human trafficking happens in broad daylight in common industries or businesses. Here, I will discuss four industries used by human traffickers, as well as how we can combat human trafficking in these industries.

#1: The Hospitality Industry.
I have discussed how traffickers appreciate the hospitality industry, but I will reiterate. Hotels and motels make trafficking easy, due to the privacy and anonymity provided. Additionally, traffickers can pay in cash and leave to continue their operations, while police cannot determine where that trafficker is moving from and to. As I previously wrote, "The ability to pay cash, the ability to change locations quickly, and underprepared staff makes hotel rooms an easy place to make money." 

How to fight human trafficking in the hospitality industry: There is an app you can download called TraffickCam. When you go to a hotel or motel, you can take pictures of your room. Victims are usually advertised online in their hotel/motel room. This app allows law enforcement to view the photos taken with photos on the advertisements to determine where a trafficker and/or their victim is. The Department of Homeland Security also provides a toolkit to educate the staff in hotels or motels. You can also read this to become aware on how to recognize the signs. 

#2: Agriculture.
Agriculture is certainly surprising. Every state has some form of agriculture. For some states, it's a large part of their economy (i.e. California, Florida, Iowa, Texas). As you can see, the states that depend heavily on agriculture have higher trafficking rates. The agriculture industry depends on migrant workers. Many are on a temporary work Visa. When does this become trafficking? When their boss threatens them with deportation. Traffickers will threaten their workers with their loved ones by stating they might report them to I.C.E. 

How to fight human trafficking in the agriculture industry: Research which companies you buy from. Ensure you get your products from ethical companies that value their workers. Buy produce and meat from local farmers or markets. If you've got some land, start a garden. If you have more land, raise your animals. 

#3: Massage Parlors/Nail Salons.
I paired these two together because they're one in the same. Many traffickers target vulnerable individuals needing to provide for their families (usually women are targeted). Similar to the agriculture industry, traffickers manipulate and coerce victims that 1) no one else will help them, and 2) they'll face deportation if they try to do anything. Some of these victims face long hours with little pay, sometimes forced to live in terrible conditions. These victims are told false promises, only to learn their true conditions for work. 

How to fight human trafficking in massage parlors/nail salons: Learn the signs. Know what indicators and red flags are visible with human trafficking victims working in massage parlors or nail salons. 

#4: Tourism.
Another industry several states depend on. What states come to mind when you hear the word "tourism?" California, Florida, New York would be common answers. Again, these states (at least the first two) depend heavily on tourism in its economy, and it also has high human trafficking rates. Tourism makes it easy for traffickers to continue their practice. Through the guise of simply visiting the States, a trafficker can have their victim work in hotels or motels for a limited amount of time with no suspicion of criminal activity. Most tourists are in their own world and pay little attention to what is happening around them, because they're too busy enjoying their vacation. In the case of human trafficking, ignorance is NOT bliss.

How to fight human trafficking in the tourism industry: As mentioned with the massage parlors and nail salons, education is a large part of this. Constantly educating staff members and others makes a larger impact than anyone can realize. 

As you can see, both sex trafficking and forced labor are evident in these industries. Cases of forced labor are harder to recognize due to the fact you cannot tell who is working freely versus someone forced into working to pay off a debt. Not to mention, in many cases of forced labor, victims are forced to labor during the day, then forced into sexual services during the night. These operations occur in plain sight, but without the proper knowledge or education in this issue, we cannot fight back. Please, get educated on how to recognize the signs of someone being trafficked.

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