Identifying Victims of Labor Trafficking

Victims of labor trafficking are not a homogenous group of people. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women. Some of them enter the country legally on worker visas for domestic, “entertainment,” computer and agricultural work, while others enter illegally. Some work in legal occupations such as domestic, factory or construction work, while others toil in illegal industries such as prostitution or panhandling. Although there is no single way to identify victims of labor trafficking, some common patterns include:

  • Victims are often kept isolated to prevent them from getting help. Their activities are restricted and are typically watched, escorted or guarded by associates of traffickers. Traffickers may “coach” them to answer questions with a cover story about being a student or tourist.
  • Victims may be blackmailed by traffickers using the victims’ status as an undocumented alien or their participation in an “illegal” industry. By threatening to report them to law enforcement or immigration officials, traffickers keep victims compliant.
  • People who are trafficked often come from unstable and economically devastated places as traffickers frequently identify vulnerable populations characterized by oppression, high rates of illiteracy, little social mobility and few economic opportunities.
  • Women and children are overwhelmingly trafficked in labor arenas because of their relative lack of power, social marginalization, and their overall status as compared to men.
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