Selling People

In the 2008 Luc Besson-directed thriller, Taken, Liam Neeson is a former CIA operative whose daughter is kidnapped by an Albanian human trafficking ring in France. The Albanians sell his daughter, a virgin and thus quite valuable, to a French auctioneer, who then sells her through intermediaries to an Arab sheikh who is about to take her virginity when Neeson climbs aboard the yacht and shoots the sheikh in the head.

Taken is one of a growing number of movies and documentaries that examine and often sensationalize the story of human trafficking. Human trafficking, and its correlate human slavery, came into global consciousness with the U.S. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, which established the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which ranks countries on their work to end human trafficking. Those that perform poorly—by the State Department’s judgment—are subject to various sanctions. Around the same time, the United Nations established a trafficking protocol through the U.N. Transnational Organized Crime Convention in 2000, which presumed trafficking was a product of organized criminal activity, and that trafficking is a result of calculated and organized conduct. In other words, traffickers are evil and powerful, and victims are unaware, innocent and weak, and need to be saved. Their saviors are sometimes police, sometimes NGOs like sociologist Kevin Bales’ Free the Slaves, and sometimes journalists like Nicholas Kristof. Recently, there has been a backlash to the savior ideology. Scholar-activist Laura Agustin coined the term “rescue industry” to describe and criticize people who want to rescue migrant sex workers from their plight, even though many sex workers neither want nor need to be rescued. This critical perspective has gained traction among a growing number of scholars.

Two of the articles here describe forms of human trafficking. Sutapa Basu writes that human trafficking, especially sex trafficking of women and girls, is a massive underground economy. She argues that poverty, structural inequalities between nations and men and women, and the cultural devaluation of women are at the root of sex trafficking. Anne Gallagher takes on the supposed urban myth of trafficking in human organs and provides evidence that it is actually increasing in frequency and global scope. She argues that as demand for organs has grown among the wealthy, organized syndicates have harvested the organs of poor people from poor countries through deception, extortion and violence.

What happens to the former victims of trafficking? Denise Brennan suggests the plight of victims of labor exploitation in the United States remains precarious even after they escape. While they often get government assistance and some get visas that let them stay, they are commonly shunned by their ethnic communities and live in poverty. Elena Shih offers a critical examination of anti-trafficking NGOs that offer rescue, rehabilitation, and vocational training to former sex-trafficking victims. Shih questions who really profits in this endeavor.

The concluding essays provide a critical perspective on human trafficking as a global social problem. Kari Lerum contends that U.S. anti-trafficking policies reflect Hollywood action-adventure scripts, but need to be more pragmatic and evidence-based. Ronald Weitzer claims that the evidence for the prevalence and scope of human trafficking, especially “sex slavery,” is scant and has been overblown by anti-trafficking activists and governments. Both suggest that sensationalizing sex trafficking detracts attention from other forms of labor trafficking and exploitation can be counter-productive in helping trafficking victims.

  1. Sex, Money, and Brutality, by Sutapa Basu
  2. Trafficking for Organ Removal, by Anne T. Gallagher
  3. Life Beyond Trafficking, by Denise Brennan
  4. The Anti-Trafficking Rehabilitation Complex, by Elena Shih
  5. Human Wrongs vs. Human Rights, by Kari Lerum
  6. Macro Claims Versus Micro Evidence, by Ronald Weitzer

Sex, Money, and Brutality

by Sutapa Basu

The sale of human beings for profit, for both sexual and nonsexual labor, is the second largest and fastest growing underground industry in the world, valued by the International Labour Organization (ILO) at $32 billion yearly. The U.S. State Department estimates there are as many as 27 million trafficking victims at any given time. According to the ILO, of those trafficked into sex work, 98 percent are women and girls. In the last decade or so, government and non-governmental organizations have poured resources into the eradication of human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, yet the industry continues to thrive. This can be attributed to the intractable structural and social inequality between women and men, poor and rich nations, as well as the huge disparity between the poor and rich within nations.

Due in part to their cultural devaluation in many parts of the world, women and girls are especially vulnerable to a host of injustices and brutalities that are connected to human trafficking. They are often mentally and physically abused and denied basic human rights of food, shelter, education and health care. And unlike drugs, women and girls can be repeatedly sold. Often time victims are trafficked as preteens and used until they are deemed too old (approximately at 20-25 years-old) or are dying of HIV/AIDS.

Globalization has created wealth and opportunities for some, but has widened already huge economic disparities and led to much social displacement for the poor majority. It has also exasperated the human trafficking problem. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to trafficking as a result of economic hardship that forces them to seek opportunities beyond home and family in the desperate search for income. Traffickers take advantage of this desperation by promising lucrative employment. Once these women are lured out of their homes and into the city, they are commonly tortured, abused, and sold to brothel owners, and forced to engage in the sex trade.

In research trips to India I have collected the narratives of nearly 100 sex workers who averaged 20 clients per day. I’ve heard heart-wrenching stories about how abandonment by a husband or the need to feed their family led them to take up offers of travel to larger cities on tenuous promises of getting jobs as household workers. Each of these women ended up in the brothels of India’s most notorious red light districts including Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, Delhi, and Kolkata. Once there, they have no means of escape and are often too ashamed, and afraid of traffickers’ threats of violent reprisal, to let their families know of their plight.

The young women I interviewed shared horrific stories of being forced into sex work and brutalized by their pimps and clients. One woman spoke about her pimp stuffing hot cayenne pepper into her vagina until she agreed to service any client of his choice—she was an 11-year-old girl at the time. Another woman shared how she became a sex worker when her par- ents gave her aunt custody of her when she was 13-years-old, believing the aunt intended to find the daughter employment as a domestic servant. The hope was that their daughter would have the opportunity for some basic education, gainful employment, and the ability to secure enough money to pay off her family’s debt to landowners and prevent them from dying of starvation. While her family was thankful for their daughter’s newfound opportunity, this young woman’s aunt forced her into sex work. Today, she is 26 years old and still works in the sex industry, where she also provides day care in the brothel during her spare time to protect children from witnessing the sex acts performed by their mothers.

The never-ending pipeline of issues that feed into poverty, especially for women, have resulted in hundreds of thousands of girls and women being sold in the sex trafficking industry annually. I have seen the results of human trafficking with my own eyes and witnessed the inhuman condition and despair in which these girls and women work. It is imperative that we do everything in our power to eradicate sex trafficking and the selling of human beings in any form.

Trafficking For Organ Removal

by Anne T. Gallagher

In 2008 a young man with a large surgical scar collapsed at Pristina airport. His story led police to a group of migrants from Turkey, Moldova, and Russia, who had been lured to Kosovo to sell their kidneys and other organs to wealthy transplant recipients from Canada, Germany, Israel, and the United States. The victims, who included five children, were promised payments of up to $26,000—which never materialized—and were asked to sign false documents indicating they were engaging in altruistic donations to relatives. In April 2013, five Kosovars, including three medical practitioners, were convicted of involvement in the well organized and highly profitable organ trafficking syndicate.

Further Reading

Read the UN report, Trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

An acute shortage of organs for transplant is driving an international shadow market. Trafficking of persons for organ removal is not an urban myth, but an increasingly common means by which the global shortage in organs is being met. Recipients are generally independently wealthy or are supported by their governments or private insurance companies. Victims are inevitably poor and from poorer countries, often unemployed and with low education levels, which makes them vulnerable to deception about the nature of the transplant procedure and its potential impacts. Their passports are commonly withheld as a means of keeping control over their movement prior to the operation. If they try to back out of an agreement to sell an organ they encounter violence or threats of violence, a practice that continues after the transplantation to ensure victims’ silence. Victims are seldom provided adequate post-operative medical care and many suffer physical and psychological harm as well as social exclusion due to the stigma attached to being compelled to sell one’s own organs.

Case studies from Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Moldova, and other countries confirm that poor and desperate individuals are lured into selling their organs on the promise of considerable payment, which is rarely made in full. In 2010 South African courts convicted doctors and administrators for offenses relating to more than 100 illegal kidney transplants carried out in a single hospital. Most of the recipients came from Israel. The organs were sourced from persons brought to South Africa from Eastern Europe and Brazil on false or exaggerated promise of payment. Police investigations in Brazil and South Africa revealed the existence of an international organ trafficking syndicate, part of a long-standing and flourishing “transplant tourism” business that has been well known in South African medical circles for many years.

A recent study by the U.S.-based Coalition for Organ Failure Solutions documented the use of debt bondage and extortion as a means of coercing organ “donation.” In this case, the victims are Sudanese asylum seekers making their way to Europe. Smugglers keep their victims in detention in Cairo and demand large sums of money for travel and other assistance. The victims are then offered the opportunity to sell a kidney to discharge their inflated debt.

Despite substantial gaps in our knowledge and understanding of trafficking in persons for organ removal, it is now well established that this form of exploitation occurs in all regions of the world and is not a rare event. My research has led me to conclude that the slick arguments of market-driven “realists”—for example, that a well-regulated market in organs is the only way to address global shortages and reduce exploitation—are ultimately unpersuasive. Put simply, the trade in organs is fundamentally unjust because the inherent imbalances of power are too great to prevent exploitation.

What can be done? Unfortunately, the international and national legal frameworks around the sale and purchase of organs are extremely weak. An exception can be found in the policies that have been developed to address trafficking in persons. It is not generally well known that international law recognizes “removal of organs” involving coercion, deception, or abuse of vulnerability as a form of trafficking-related exploitation. This means that that the brokered sale and purchase of organs, including through transplant tourism, effectively constitutes “trafficking in persons.” As a form of trafficking in persons, the trade in organs must be criminalized by nations and subject to appropriate sanctions. International law also requires that countries cooperate with each other in prosecuting such practices. Those who have been subject to exploitation for removal of organs are victims of trafficking, and as such, have specific and enforceable rights to assistance, protection, support, and remedy.

Life Beyond Trafficking

by Denise Brennan

Human trafficking is in the news nearly every day. These stories typically focus on the horrors endured and the drama of rescue or escape. Oddly, we hear little about life after trafficking. Splashy media coverage about trafficking, non-profit organizations’ emotional fundraising appeals, and celebrity public-service announcements tend to eclipse stories of formerly trafficked persons’ actual day-to-day lives.

Trafficked people are men and women from all over the world whose plans to migrate for work went terribly wrong when they ended up severely exploited by their employers. Migrant exploitation is commonplace in low-wage workplaces. The individuals that the U.S. government designates as “trafficked” are just a small part of a much larger story of everyday exploitation of migrant laborers in the United States. The number of trafficking victims—the U.S. government has designated fewer than 4,000 people since 2000 as trafficked—pales against the millions of migrants who work in conditions that may not be considered abusive enough to fit the definition of trafficking. In short, trafficking into forced labor is on the extreme end of a continuum of commonplace abuse of undocumented migrants and workers with temporary visas.

For nearly 10 years I have been following how over 30 men and women who are survivors of human trafficking have resettled in small towns and large cities across the United States. Vulnerability characterizes their lives after trafficking. Despite the media fascination and fundraising frenzy over trafficking, formerly trafficked persons are left largely on their own after modest government assistance and the granting of “T” visas (which allow trafficking victims to remain in the United States for up to four years and to apply for permanent residency). They must rebuild their lives from scratch—most do not even have a change of clothes. Typically they do not know a single person in the United States. Often they stay away from communities of co-ethnics if their abusers are still at-large.

Beyond a fear of violence, feelings of stigma and shame also can steer these exploited migrant workers away from co-ethnic communities. A Mexican woman, who had been trafficked into Mexican-run brothels in New York City, was spotted by a former client while she was working in a restaurant frequented by Mexican clients. She quit after he told her co-workers about her past. Another woman was humiliated and shaken when the adult son of her abuser threatened her while she was working at a bar. Part of a tight-knit community of African migrants in the suburbs of Washington, DC, she knew her fellow countrymen blamed her for “bringing shame” on their community by reporting her abuse (in domestic work) to
the police. By relinquishing ties to these ready-made communities, formerly trafficked persons forgo the support, advice, and assistance they so desperately need.

Chronic financial insecurity characterizes formerly trafficked persons’ lives, not only in the short term, but also years into resettlement. They enter the U.S. economy in the ranks of the working poor, often working in the same low-wage and unprotected labor sectors as when they were in forced labor. They weather firings, divorce, and health emergencies. A single emergency can tip them further into debt and greater poverty. A $500 speeding ticket derailed a young woman’s plans to take a full course load at a community college. Following a divorce, a woman with small children in Los Angeles could not afford to pay her car payments on time. She had no choice but to let the bills stack up: “It was either pay the rent or the car.” Another woman, who could not travel overseas to visit her ill father while her Green Card was pending, summed up the shortcomings of the trafficking care regime: “The T visa does not really give you much.”

Formerly trafficked persons resettle throughout the United States and recount similar stories from poverty’s edge. They insist, however, that if they could endure their abuser, they can handle a few bills. “I have opportunities here others in my hometown will never have,” Esperanza from Mexico explains. “And I have my son with me now. Just the other day was his birthday, and he was crying. He told me he hated his birthday since it reminded him of all the birthdays we were apart.” Although their time in forced labor changed them, so too do their experiences afterward. Life after trafficking is a series of private daily struggles and successes, far from the media spotlight. As formerly trafficked persons like Esperanza quietly reclaim their lives, they make the United States their home.

The Anti-Trafficking Rehabilitation Complex

by Elena Shih

Yan was a sex worker in Beijing for over five years. Sex work offered greater autonomy and better income relative to the typical low-wage service sector jobs available to rural-to-urban migrants like her. After disagreeing with her manager over owed wages, Yan was recruited to work at a Christian vocational training and rehabilitation program for sex trafficking victims in China. Yan and most of her co-workers don’t consider themselves victims of trafficking, but the non-govern- mental organization (NGO) that employs them does because they consider all sex work to be inherently exploitative, and thus indistinguishable from human trafficking.

Anti-trafficking NGOs have created a cottage industry of “victim repair” through vocational training. In recent years, there has been a shift in how NGOs provide rehabilitation to victims of human trafficking. Many NGOs— both faith-based and secular—working in Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Mexico, Moldova, Uganda, and the United States now focus on selling wares made by trafficking victims to raise funds and awareness about human trafficking. Jewelry, tote bags, blankets, and placemats are among the many products sold by anti-trafficking NGOs at anti-trafficking fairs and confer- ences, and by online vendors in the United States. The annual “Freedom and Fashion” show in Los Angeles attracts several thousand consumers yearly to view and purchase goods made by formerly trafficked persons.

Yan’s NGO trains former sex workers to make jewelry, and sells this jewelry as fair trade and slave-free labor in the United States as part of the anti-human trafficking movement. Employees earn 1,800 RMB (US$295) per month, similar to other low-wage jobs in Beijing, but a fraction of what they previously earned as sex workers. Yan discovered that the jewelry pieces she designed and produced for the NGO sell for up to US$70 apiece at anti-trafficking fairs in the United States. The “victim of trafficking” label adds tremendous market value to such products sold as slave-free goods, though it does nothing for her wages.

In addition to vocational training, NGOs rely heavily on moral rehabilitation to “repair the victim.” At Yan’s NGO workers must sign a contract agreeing to no longer sell sex or patronize any entertainment establishments they once worked in. They are also required to live in mandatory shelter housing where they have a nightly curfew. There is also “optional” daily bible study, but if they choose not to attend, they must work. So everyone goes to the bible study, and do not consider this to be much of a choice.

While some former sex workers consider the work these NGOs offer desirable and the social conditions at least bearable, many others leave the programs because of the social isolation and moral restrictions. After working as a jewelry maker for three years, Yan decided to leave the NGO because she saw limited opportunities for upward mobility relative to the daily social restrictions. When she returned to her hometown in Fujian Province, she found herself once again facing limited opportunities in low-wage service sector employment. She attempted to sell jewelry in local marketplaces, but quickly learned that she could not earn a living wage doing so. After three years of training, she still didn’t have a financially viable vocation.

The niche market around the products of the labor of former human trafficking victims—“buying for freedom” as it is frequently marketed—is based on deceptively simple narratives of human trafficking that are created by the organizations that sell these products. In China, the branding of the slave-free product relies on the stereotype of an innocent young woman forced into sex work because of Chinese cultural pressures for women to support their families, and the cultural subordination of women as seen with the government’s one child policy. These narratives garner sympathy and support for the NGOs, but rarely do these stories reflect the complex decision-making processes of women who willingly, or unwillingly, enter sex work.

The focus of anti-trafficking NGOs on moral re-education, labor training, and selling their products does not favorably alter the long-term economic prospects of former sex workers. It does generate income for NGOs and privilege the perspective of First World rescuers. Rather than rescue, sex workers have long asked for enforcement of policies around employer accountability, measures for health and safety, and protection from police abuse. The focus on rehabilitation through labor, particularly when framed within the interests of human trafficking, has silenced these concerns and has resulted in increased surveillance, stigmatization, and unwarranted—and sometimes unwanted—focus on “rescue” from sex work.

Human Wrongs vs. Human Rights

by Kari Lerum

Contemporary anti-trafficking campaigns in the United States are driven by a “human wrongs”-based (versus a “human rights”-based) approach to social problems focusing on villains, victims, and heroes. U.S.-based human trafficking discourses are also connected to a long history of carceral politics, fear-based social movements including panic over the Internet and media, and anti-prostitution activism. We need to move away from policies that look like Hollywood action-adventure scripts, and toward pragmatic, evidence based, human rights based approaches that prioritize sexual, racial, immigrant, and labor justice.

Many anti-trafficking efforts in the United States focus on shaming, prosecuting, incarcerating, and deporting individuals, especially those involved in sexual commerce. Those targeted for incarceration and deportation are predominately men and women of color.

Anti-trafficking efforts in the United States—especially those that focus on “sex” trafficking—mimic classic Hollywood scripts of good guys hunting down and punishing “bad guys” while discovering and saving “good girl” victims. Stories of victims, villains, and heroes have underpinned countless documentaries, movies, news stories, talk shows, town halls, anti-trafficking conferences, activist campaigns, police stings, and FBI/ICE press releases across the United States since the turn of the twenty-first century. In turn, contemporary anti-trafficking efforts perpetuate larger national and global trends that emphasize criminal justice— rather than social justice—solutions to social problems.

In his book Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner argues that much of the anxiety expressed by Americans around social issues is a product of fear-inducing strategies constructed by organizations and interest groups—in partnership with media and public relations—to advance specific ideological and financial agendas. Foremost among these mediated fears in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century is the image of children being abducted, tricked, and seduced by strangers.

Since the passing of the 2000 Trafficking Victim Protection Act (TVPA), scary stories about girls and young women tricked or abducted and sold into “sex slavery” by “foreign” or “evil” men have been repeated in nearly duplicate format by celebrities, filmmakers, and select researchers and activists. As the work of Ann Jordan (director of the Program on Forced Labor and Trafficking at American University) and others have shown, the methodologies, categories of analysis, and empirical basis of these sensationalized stories are often not subjected to scholarly peer review and, in many cases, have been widely discredited by social scientists and activists working with sex workers on the ground. And yet these seemingly universal stories continue to be dominate media and policy level discussions as the master truth of human trafficking.

Sociologist Wendy Chapkis argues that “prostitute” is a trope for women who are either “fallen” or in need of saving. This impulse to “save” prostitutes has become magnified with contemporary “sex trafficking” discourses. Many scholars, including theologian Yvonne Zimmerman and sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein, have traced the sexual/moral focus on the “sex slave” in U.S.-based anti-trafficking efforts to alliances between conservative Protestant Christians and radical and second wave feminists— all of whom share a belief that no woman would “choose” this “evil.” Such assumptions are amplified in discourses of human trafficking—and provide the moral fuel for contemporary anti-trafficking efforts in the United States.

Despite a lack of confirming evidence, citizens and social organizations have jumped aboard the sex-trafficking bandwagon uncritically and enthusiastically. University students clamor to write research papers about sex slaves; new anti-sex trafficking organizations proliferate; social workers collaborate with police officers to “rescue” sex workers and then coerce them into “diversion” programs (or face incarceration). And the Department of Homeland Security/ICE is now seen as an ally to mainstream feminist and women’s rights activists, with spokes-persons speaking at anti-trafficking conferences and heralded as feminist heroes. Meanwhile, voices calling for labor rights and economic justice—for all people—including undocumented workers and sex workers—continue to be marginalized.

There are serious flaws with anti-trafficking policies that simply focus either on rescuing or punishing individuals within any industry. The biggest winner in the sensationalistic “rescues” of sex workers and crackdowns on clients and employers, or ”pimps,” is the carceral industrial complex. There is mounting evidence that sex workers, including people who are trafficked or coerced into sex work, are far more harmed than helped by efforts that force them to identify as either victims or criminals.

In contrast, human rights and justice-oriented activists address issues of labor coercion and trafficking by focusing on structures of violence, poverty, and oppressive institutional power imbalances. Groups such as the New Orleans-based Women with A Vision, Washington D.C.’s Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), and New York’s Sex Workers Project work in collaboration with (rather than “against” or “for”) communities vulnerable to labor exploitation; they look for alternatives to “rescue” or carceral approaches. It is time to move away from Hollywood fantasies and toward pragmatic, evidence-based, human rights (rather than rescue) approaches that prioritize sexual, racial, immigrant, and labor justice.

Macro Claims Versus Micro Evidence

by Ronald Weitzer

Human trafficking is a hot topic. Over the past decade it has attracted substantial media coverage, generated growing anti-trafficking activism, and resulted in expensive government counter-measures. While no one doubts the existence and seriousness of the problem, much of the prevailing discourse and policymaking rests on four dubious macro-level claims. These claims sensationalize the problem and are counterproductive because they distract attention from what is actually happening in the lives of individuals.

First, human trafficking is depicted as a disproportionately huge problem. According to the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, and many other state and international agencies and NGOs, millions of people are victimized every year. In 2005, the ILO asserted that 2.45 million people were engaged in forced labor as a result of trafficking, a figure that inexplicably jumped to 9.1 million in 2012. In 2010, the U.S. State Department’s trafficking office somehow concluded that 0.18 percent of the world’s population were trafficking victims. But the most outlandish claim is that 27 million people are enslaved today, many as a result of being trafficked into slavery. No sources, let alone convincing evidence, have been provided to document these figures.

The State Department’s trafficking office recently declared that only 0.4 percent of the “estimated victims” worldwide had been officially “identified.” Again, no source was given for the number of either estimated or identified victims, nor was “identified” defined. Still, the number of confirmed victims (located and assisted by authorities) has been fairly small: a few thousand worldwide over the past decade. No one would expect the number of confirmed cases to be similar to the estimated number of victims (given the barriers to locating people in hidden operations), but the gulf between the two figures is enormous—raising serious questions about the alleged magnitude of the problem as well as the necessity of spending such a huge amount of money (in the billions) to combat trafficking.

Second, many commentators claim that human trafficking is a growing “epidemic.” Human trafficking may have grown over time in certain regions, but this does not mean that the problem is steadily increasing worldwide, as it appears to have declined in other settings. Because of its hidden nature and the lack of a reliable baseline from which to measure changes over time, global trends in trafficking simply cannot be estimated.

Third, the UN and the U.S. government frequently assert that, in size and profitability, human trafficking is the second- or third-largest organized-crime enterprise in the world, with illegal drug trafficking being the biggest. No evidence has been offered to support this claim. Moreover, the estimated annual profits from trafficking ranges from a low of $5 billion to a high of $36 billion—an extremely broad range that should raise skepticism.

Fourth, most media reporting and policymaking center on the sensationalized issue of sex trafficking, rather than labor trafficking. The worst cases of abuse and exploitation and “sex slavery” are highlighted and depicted as representative, while the likely more typical cases of migrant labor exploitation are usually ignored. The most disturbing instances of trafficking clearly deserve priority by the authorities, but there is no evidence that sex slavery is typical of trafficking experiences. Moreover, the near-exclusive focus on sex trafficking may be criticized if—as the ILO and Obama administration believe—trafficking in other labor sectors is far more pervasive.

It is not possible to satisfactorily count (or even estimate) the number of persons involved in, or the profitability of, an illicit, hidden economy at the macro level, nationally or internationally. So what is the alternative? Carefully conducted case studies—in a town, city, or small region of a country—are superior because they can yield more reliable numbers (in a measurable, limited setting) and also richer insights regarding participants’ lived experiences. Recent case studies indicate that the experiences of individuals—both during the migration stage and subsequently at the work destination—range along a broad continuum. At one pole are individuals who have been forced into work or have been deceived about the kind of work and living conditions at the destination. At the other pole are those operating with full knowledge and agency. Most seem to fall in between the two extremes—for example, an individual who seeks work abroad because opportunities are unavailable at home and consents to some demands or conditions but not others. More in-depth localized research is also needed because it can pay policy dividends: the findings can be used for targeting specific trafficking “hot spots” and for better directing resources to assist victims in such locations.

Images from the print version were provided by Kay Chernush, and are available at