Friday, January 24, 2014

THE INVISIBLE PROBLEM OF MODERN SLAVERY AMONG US


By Effie Caldarola
Catholic News Service

If you connect the term “human trafficking” with exotic locales and wild action films like “Taken,” in which the actor Liam Neeson tracks down his daughter’s captors in Europe and kills a slew of scary-looking Eastern Europeans in the process, you’re like a lot of people, including me a few years ago.

I now realize that trafficking is a problem on the streets of my city, and trafficking recruiters may be no further than the middle school or high school my kids attended.

What is human trafficking? Trafficking is no less than a modern-day form of slavery. It can involve sending people to faraway places, but it may enslave someone in their own community. It often ensnares victims for the sex trade, but it can exploit people to work in factories, restaurants or farms. A hallmark of trafficking is that it focuses on the vulnerable. And the vulnerable are all around us, even when they seem invisible.

The United Nations estimates more than 20 million people are trafficked, or enslaved, worldwide. Others put that number at 30 million, but the real figure is hard to pin down when a “hidden” population is involved.

I recently spoke to a social worker at Covenant House, an organization that provides shelter and services to runaway and homeless youth. She works with vulnerable kids in a medium-size American city and said young males and females are typical prey for a trafficker.