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Human Trafficking: Threat To Economic Security Of A Nation

Human trafficking is an organised crime, committed and facilitated by multiple actors at the source, transit and destination points of trafficking

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The crime of human trafficking is not new. What is new is its global expansion- a market- driven industry which is based on the principle of supply and demand, where the risk is low and the profits are high. The organized crime of trafficking is estimated to be the third largest international criminal enterprise, generating an estimated $150 billion dollars annually (ILO, 2014). It is a market, which exhibits serious violation of human rights where victims are treated like commodities, bought, sold, traded and used to meet the worldwide demand for sex, cheap labour, slavery, human organs and pornography, etc. 

The demand for children is for the purpose of cheap labour, sex/ sex tourism; pornography, drug paddling, carpet weaving, mining, terrorist activities and so on. The demand is for women and young girls for commercial sexual exploitation, pornography, and domestic work. The demand is for male adults for the purpose of forced or bonded labour, drug trafficking, etc. 

Human trafficking as a criminal act violates the rule of law at source, transit and destination countries which as a result endangers their national security. In simple terms, human trafficking is a growing form of transnational organised crime that inherently breeds more crimes by providing fuel from its proceeds to strengthen other criminal activities such as drugs trafficking or illegal business of arms and ammunitions resulting in to human as well as national and international threat to the economic and national security of a nation. 

Human trafficking profits the traffickers, pimps and the employers. Human trafficking is an organised crime, committed and facilitated by multiple actors at the source, transit and destination points of trafficking. Huge profits with minimal risk rolls from this offence, which is solely meant for its organisers and the exploiters. The profits accrued from the criminal business of human trafficking do not add to the GDP of a nation, rather it is a loss to the economy and national security of a nation, as it is one of those illegal activities which are responsible for funding other illegal activities. The process of trafficking and the exploitation involved continuously generates large sums of illegal income for criminal networks, with a consequent threat on other legitimate businesses such as tourism and hospitality which have the potential to add and improve the economic conditions of a country. 

It is a common phenomenon for these organised criminal groups of traffickers to hide their profits by investing them in various legitimate businesses. According to United States of America, Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report (June 2006), there are some businesses that are simply established to launder money and not necessarily to make profits. This practice may in turn have a negative impact on the economy of a nation, as legitimate businesses may find themselves to compete against enterprises, which is being secretly or unknowingly subsidised by laundered proceeds of crime or supported by the exploitation of trafficked persons. Fair competition may also be affected when exploited trafficked persons have been used further down the supply chain to produce materials such as textiles.

Human trafficking as a source of funding for terrorist activities.-  According to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) report (2018), there is a strong link between the human trafficking and terrorist organisations. Human trafficking within and into conflict and terrorist affected areas is primarily for domestic servitude, sexual slavery, forced armed recruitment, forced labour and forced marriage. It has also been observed that terrorist organisations use human trafficking as a way to raise funds to nurture their organisations and to support their terrorist activities. In a report, “Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict: 10 Ideas for Action by the United Nations Security Council by the United Nations University, it has been stated that in the year 2016, ISIL fighters have used the encrypted communications app Telegram and applications such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Threema to auction enslaved Yazidi women and launder the resulting profits. It was also observed that over 5,000 Yazidi women, children and men were enslaved by ISIL. The price paid for such Yazidi women and girls ranged between USD 200 and USD 1500 and sometimes as low as USD 13. In another report (2016) of UN University it has been claimed that in January 2016, ISIL received USD 850,000 in payments from Yazidi families for the return of 200 kidnapped victims. In a similar manner the US Department of State, 2015 report has found that in Syria, ISIL used displaced children as forced labour in organised begging rings. Similar was the case of Boko Haram. It was noted by UN that Boko Haram uses children as beggars to raise funds. 

Human trafficking and its impact on children.- Children are the easiest targets of traffickers. Because of poor socio-economic conditions it is easy to deceive or trap the poor parents of these children thus, forcing them to ‘send’ or ‘sell’ their children for forced labour in the garb of better livelihood options. The traffickers force these children to work for long hours, with minimal or without any wages. It restricts these child labourers from going to school, getting education and growing up into educated citizens.  Apart from labour activities there is a gigantic demand for children for their commercial sexual exploitation which involves offline as well as online sexual abuse such as child sexual abuse explicit materials; use of children for pornography, etc. These children are forced to survive inhuman living conditions resulting in to illness such as, stunted growth, malnutrition, respiratory diseases and various life threatening diseases, such as HIV and STIs.

It is noteworthy to mention that the profits yielded from child labour are high because the wages paid to child labourers are negligible or not equivalent to an adult worker. The profits earned from the enterprises involving child labourers do not contribute to the economic health and development of a nation.

Human trafficking hinders the growth and development of a nation.- The costs of the crime of human trafficking incorporates many elements, including the value of resources dedicated to its prevention, the protection and rehabilitation of victims, monetary compensation to its victims, creation of livelihood opportunities for the victims, costs involved in medical care of the victims, investigation and prosecution of offenders. It also results in loss of human resources and reductions in tax revenue. According to a UNODC report (2008), trafficking of persons redirects the financial benefits of migration from migrants, their families, community and government or other potential legitimate employers to traffickers and their associates. All indications are that the income generated by related organized crime is significant and global. As a major component of organized crime, with all its financial power, trafficking in persons has a complex and interlocking negative impact across human, social, political and economic spheres.

The introduction of, The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 is a welcome step by the Government of India. The Bill attacks the organized nature of trafficking from all aspects by taking in to consideration the national as well as cross border trafficking, the economy and high profits involved in it, involvement of numerous criminal syndicates and varied forms of exploitation involved in the offence of trafficking. The Bill has been strengthened by addressing the need for its prevention from district to national level and providing timely relief and rehabilitation to its victims. The  three-tier institutional mechanism under the Bill creates in a convergent model, wherein various ministries, departments, NGOs and domain experts are working on same platform to look in to the prevention of trafficking, protection and rehabilitation of victims.

From the foregoing, it is evident that the transnational organised crime, including human trafficking, trafficking in fire arms and drugs trafficking are interwoven and in turn poses a great threat to the human and national security of a nation and as an end result endangering the economic security of such nation. Therefore, it is the need of the hour that the nations should adopt ‘zero-tolerance’ towards trafficking and work together for its prevention and control by enhancing their border security, safe migration practices and international cooperation including law enforcement and intelligence. 

To this end, it is imperative to quote one the speech of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, U.S. President (January 6, 1941) - Freedom from fear and freedom from want are key parts of the Four Freedoms proclaimed as post-WWII goals:

“The battle of peace has to be fought on two fronts. The first is the security front where victory spells freedom from fear. The second is the economic and social front where victory means freedom from want. Only victory on both fronts can assure the world of an enduring peace."

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Silky Grewal

The author is a practising advocate in Delhi. In the past she has worked with Government of India, Ministry of Women and Child Development as a senior consultant in the drafting of Trafficking of Persons (prevention,protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018

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