Human Trafficking is a crime that isn't limited by the borders of a country or the culture of a society or community. It has ballooned into an organized, international practice that robs men, women, and children of the opportunity to pursue their own potential.
Now, chances are that you don't think you know a family member, friend, or neighbor affected by this criminal behavior. This is not a crime that always happens out in the open; it's not as common a news story in this country as theft or fraud. However, every day individuals are quietly moved or "trafficked" from their homes in other countries - often through deception or coercion - and moved across land borders and bodies of water, where they are forced or even sold into prostitution and servitude. It's not just an international problem, though - trafficking regularly takes place within countries and states. No community is immune to this crime of exploitation, even here in the United States.
The Secretary addressed the issue of Human Trafficking this morning during a discussion with students, faculty, journalists and representatives from government, law enforcement and the NGO community at the Danish Institute for International Studies in Copenhagen. She sees it as an urgent problem that affects the United States, our international partners, and particularly less developed nations - where much of the trafficking originates.
“Human trafficking is a global problem that requires a global solution.” said Secretary Napolitano. “The United States, Denmark and all our international partners must continue to work together to better identify and dismantle criminal trafficking organizations.”
The Secretary talked about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) role in combating the practice, and particularly ICE's work with the Danish National Police and other international partners to dismantle the infrastructure that helps to facilitate the movement of individuals across borders. ICE also employs more than 300 Victim Assistance Coordinators worldwide who work with non-governmental organizations to help provide long-term assistance efforts.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also manages an international Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign, aimed at raising awareness about the issue.
The Secretary also discussed the public's responsibility. We often talk about our shared responsibility to prepare for disasters, to be alert and vigilant in recognizing potential criminal or terrorist activity, and to protect ourselves and each other from the spread of communicable diseases like the seasonal and H1N1 flu strains. Add this one to that list.
You'd think that human trafficking isn't always visible or noticeable. However, victims of this crime are commonly domestic servants or employees at a "sweat shop." ICE launched a campaign last year called "Hidden in Plain Sight," an initiative designed to raise awareness about this issue in the United States. Individuals who suspect someone is being held against their will should call the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.
Stay tuned for more updates on the Secretary's trip.