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Human trafficking is one of the great scourges of our time. The slavery trade is as ancient as it is barbaric. The fact that it has not been eradicated demands urgent action.
Tragically, as a series of reports that begins today in the Financial Times reveals, this appalling trade is booming in many parts of the world. The UN refugee agency estimates that a record 59.5m people have been forced to flee from their homes because of wars, conflict and persecution. The worldwide tally of migrants, both within countries and internationally, is in the hundreds of millions. All too often such people — and those they leave behind — are preyed upon by human traffickers.
Among the victims are kidnapped children snatched from near-deserted villages in China, as described in Lucy Hornby’s powerful report, and Brazilian labourers forced by ranchers in the Amazon to work without wages and threatened with death if they complain.
Some cases of human trafficking have become notorious: mass forced labour in North Korea; slave ships that fish for seafood off the Thai coast; Iraqi women forced by Isis to become sex slaves. Others are rising dramatically. The number of Nigerian women entering Italy by sea — most of whom are trafficked to work as prostitutes — has quadrupled since 2014, as criminal gangs push them through perilous but relatively cheap routes carved out by refugees.
The International Labour Organisation has estimated there are almost 21m victims of forced labour worldwide. But there are still not enough hard data on trafficking. More knowledge about this evil trade is needed if it is to be stopped. That is why the Financial Times is delighted to be working with Stop the Traffik, an organisation that seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking, for this year’s seasonal appeal.
Stop the Traffik’s goal is to shine a light on the criminal underworld of human trafficking to bolster prevention efforts, rather than to support individual victims directly. In the coming days FT correspondents will report on this modern-day slavery and the efforts to make it a thing of the past.