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Causes and effects of human trafficking

Summary & Comment: Trafficking in persons is a serious threat to human security and economic development. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children are forced by ever-worsening environmental, economic, and social circumstances into situations of labor and sexual exploitation both within and outside the African continent every year. To bring this to a halt the author calls for "serious, sustained political action at the top levels of governments and throughout societies." DN

Author: Ade Adenekan Date Written: 10 July 2010
Primary Category: Africa General Document Origin: Pan African Reconciliation Centre Journal
Secondary Category: -none- Source URL: http://pafrec.org
Key Words: human trafficking, causes, effects, slavery,

African Charter Article #5: Everyone shall have the right to dignity and legal status; all forms of exploitation, slavery, and torture are prohibited. (Click for full text...)

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1. Causes and effects of human trafficking
2. Human trafficking - the 21st century slavery

1. Causes and effects of human trafficking


Causes and effects of human trafficking, no doubt, can be quite devastating to the socio-economic developing of any country where the nefarious scourge rages and that is more rampant in the poor nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Which way one looks at it, apparently traffic or young African women and children to Europe and the Middle East for commercial sexual exploitation is a very great phenomenon. They are often lured by promises of steady employment as shopkeepers, housemaids, seamstress, nannies or hotel service positions and attendants in the major European countries and are eventually forced into prostitution on getting to the destination.

Many of these unfortunate victims of human trafficking in most of the cases may not be aware that they will be forced into commercial sex trade or their travel documents particularly passports will be seized or that would have to pay a very huge debt if they eventually renege have to pay and subject to brutal beatings and serious bodily harm if the income they bring to the their captives is inadequate. The very highly sensitive diabolical network, mostly dominated by the Nigerian organized crime kingpins have also extended their nefarious operations into Benin Republic, Togo, Guinea, Mali, and presently to most of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries.

Increased airport scrutiny of travel documents, in most cases, compelled the traffickers to take their human cargo through land borders. These devil-may-care felons normally initiate a safe-house throughout the region, moving them through the desert to Morocco or by vehicles to other parts of North Africa. In some cases, they may be moved to Spain by fast boats. The unfortunate journey is brutal and can last for about two weeks while many of the irrational adventurers suffer untold hardship and at times die crudely in the desert or while clandestinely crossing the ocean. The Italian border authorities confirmed some time ago that they normally rescue thousands of ‘migrants every month.

The diabolical scenario normally starts this way. The recruiter, who is very popular and considered to be quite wealthy in the unfortunate area, usually approach a young girl or woman and tell very beautiful but incorrect stories of how money is very easy to earn in the developed countries. Judging by the flamboyant life style of the predator, the victim, taking into account untold suffering of the people in the environment normally swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker. In some cases, the predators are friends or family members of the victims.

In some cases as well, parents who want a better life for their wards are accomplices and they pressurize their daughters into the illicit trade so as to repatriate the blood money, if there is any at all, to the family. At the final destination, work does not come easy and if found at all, will be poorly remunerated because of the illegal nature of their stay in the countries of destination.

According to an International Labor Organization (ILO) survey on Nigeria, one out of every trafficked children dies from mishaps and diseases mostly HIV/AIDS as well as others such as sexually transmitted diseases, violence, dangerously harsh working conditions, malnutrition and in some cases, drug and alcohol addiction. This is not a matter that should be swept under the carpet by the political powers-that-be  across the world and until a very strict and urgent action is taken to stem the tide of human trafficking, the world would recede into the unfortunate era of the illicit slavery that was said to have been established in the early 19th century.

2. Human trafficking - the 21st century slavery  


The phenomenon of slavery, no doubt, dates back to the ancient times when victorious armies and tribes in Europe and Asia found it more profitable to use as slave people they caught in wars than to murder them just like that. In many Asian countries, likewise in Israel, slaves were bought and used for various domestic and farm labor. In the 14th century Europe, these unfortunate men and women caught at wars were known as serfs, a title that classified them as members of the lowest order and are “owned”, in most cases, by the lords of the manor. They attended to his mundane wishes, work in farms and depended solely on him for their livelihood.

Going by the history, the Portuguese started kidnapping and poaching human beings as far back as 1442 in the west coast of Africa particularly in countries like the Gold Coast (the present Ghana), Togo, Benin, and Nigeria while in 1517, they encouraged Spain to embrace the “lucrative” inhuman market. The English followed in 1553, France in 1624 and soon after the Dutch, the Danes, and America. Africa, in 1650, had a population of about 100 million (20 per cent of the then existing world), 90m million in 1800, 95 million in 1850 and 120 million in 1900.

Taking into account the high profitability of the illicit trade in which human beings were the fiscal wares, many crude methods were employed for the security of the diabolical ventures. Cases were reported whereby houses in villages and hamlets were irrationally set ablaze in the middle of the nights just in order to catch hapless individuals including women and children for sale in open market like common household commodities.

The illicit trade was always a subject of many crude channels. European ships were chartered by the merchants to take manufactured goods to the coast of Africa and on reaching the destination, the commodities were exchanged for slaves who would be later taken to the West Indies and sold for huge profits. In this place, their merchants used their money to buy commodities like sugar, coffee and tobacco which would be later taken back to Europe. Since the ultimate intention of the trade is to make huge profit, the ship captains loaded as much as healthy slaves for the lowest possible price. They normally had a system whereby the captains would bring a fewer number of slaves in their ships so that the chance of disease and death would be reduced to the barest minimum.

Today, it is quite apparent that hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children are forced by ever worsening environmental, economic and social circumstances into situations of labor and sexual exploitation both within and outside the continent every year. Trafficking in persons – the modern day slavery is evidently a serious threat to human security and development.

Right now, awareness of trafficking increases gradually because of the vigilance on vehicles conveying child laborers to markets and plantations in different places. In Nigeria for example, an International Labor Organization (ILO) report found that 40% of the street children and street hawkers were victims of trafficking. In March 2002 for example, it was said that eight million Nigerian children undergo the worst forms of child labor serving as domestic servants, street beggars, hawkers, agricultural laborers and prostitutes.

At least 60% of foreign prostitutes in Italy are from African countries with the most of them from Nigeria. Nigerian and Italian authorities estimate that there are from 10,000 to 15,000 Nigerian prostitutes in Italy alone. Trafficking of foreign women into South Africa for commercial sexual exploitation from other areas of Africa, Europe and South East Asia is not only growing but appears to be controlled by organized criminal gangs from Bulgaria, Russia, Thailand, China, and Nigeria.

It is very clear that without serious and sustained political will at the top levels of governments and throughout societies; intervention will remain limited compared to the scope and magnitude of the problem. Traffickers will continue to victimize African men, women and children, depriving them of their basic human rights, depriving countries of critical human capital to compete in the global economy and also governments of the ability to establish law and order within their own borders.

*I am Ade Adenekan, formerly a Conference Officer with the erstwhile
 Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) for over half a decade and
 now the Executive Director of Pan-African Reconciliation Centre.

*PARC Journal  is a journal Of The Pan-African Reconciliation Centre

Ade Adenaken
Pan African Reconciliation site  PARC  
from their blog ACPET, African Centres for peace education and training

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