III. Recruiting Victims of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is an elaborate crime that generally transpires over time. As will be discussed later, factors such as global political and economic instability in certain regions of the world, together with large-scale and epidemic instances of poverty and disenfranchisement of entire groups of people, contribute to making humans vulnerable victims of human trafficking. Because of these factors, it becomes too easy to trick individuals into believing that employment opportunities abroad will help alleviate their economic woes. Most victims of human trafficking are recruited and convinced to seek employment, usually in a foreign country (Farr, 2005). Recruiters are all too often acquaintances and friends from their town and sometimes even their spouse or significant other. Promises of a better life are used to deceive victims who already desperately long for a way to financially provide for themselves and usually for their families as well. At times, victims are recruited through advertisements in local newspapers. Again, the ads convey opportunities to work abroad as domestic servants, cooks, models, dancers, and anything else that would entice a person to answer such ads.
At first, those victims recruited for employment abroad are treated as valuable assets. The recruiter will usually take them to an established travel agency, and steps will be taken to prepare their visas for travel. Some victims may be asked for a down payment to aid in their travel, but most are told by the recruiter that a payment must be given after their first month of employment to cover the expenses of travel and the preparation of visas. Once the recruiter has finalized travel plans, another person in the trafficking operation will accompany the victims to their respective places of destination. Little do the victims know that their chaperone is in fact simply protecting the human cargo and preventing their escape. After reaching the place of destination, the victims will be delivered into the hands of their employer who will conduct an inventory of the human goods and assign them to work in various types of employment. The employer will also ask victims for their passports, visas, and any other type of identification under the guise that he or she will place them in a safe location.
With passports and visas confiscated, victims begin to realize that their promise of legitimate employment and a better life was false. Their employers will be quick to inform them of their enslavement and conditions of their occupation, usually in the sex industry. Threats of physical violence and actual violence will be used to temper defiance. Victims will be told of an impending and accruing debt (e.g., rent, medical expenses, food, etc.), which they must pay through forced labor. Most victims will be sold, but their new employer will recount a similar tale of debt bondage and slavery. Although victims will be told that after paying their debt, freedom will be a reality, most will not be released. Most will also contract sexually transmitted diseases and turn to drugs and alcohol for comfort. Some will die trying to pay their debt or die trying to escape.
It is important to consider that in cases where victims are recruited through promises of a better life, some may consent to the initial offer to travel abroad, even if it means they will have to lie to authorities about their immigration status once they reach their country of destination. Some victims may pay for fraudulent documents. A few may also consent to work in the sex industry as exotic dancers and prostitutes. However, these victims do not consent to exploitation and forced labor. The U.S. law against trafficking states that consent is irrelevant to a determination of whether the crime of human trafficking has occurred. Although most victims are recruited, some victims are abducted. Refugees and displaced individuals are prime targets. Most will be drugged and transported to faraway places. Nonetheless, they will soon realize that freedom is a distant reality and that forced labor is their destiny. Many children, after the Tsunami of 2004 in Indonesia, entered the human trafficking trade in this manner (U.S. Department of State, 2008).
Power and control of victims are keys to a successful trafficking enterprise. Violence and the threat of violence are essential, but psychological techniques are also powerful. Fear of retribution to the victim or family members quells attempts to escape and disobedience. Fear of deportation is also a way to maintain order, since victims are without passports and essentially at risk of being apprehended by authorities and sanctioned. It is not unusual, after months of enslavement, for victims to lose their will to even think about escape. “Stockholm syndrome” (loyalty to the hostage taker) will set in, and soon establishing compliance to the wishes of traffickers is an easy task (Aronowitz, 2001; Bales, 2005; Beeks & Amir, 2006; Farr, 2005).