U.S. says financial crisis adds to human trafficking

Tue Jun 16, 2009 3:15pm EDT
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By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Millions of people around the world are living in bondage and the global financial crisis has made many more vulnerable to labor and sex trafficking, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.

In its annual "Trafficking in Persons" report, which tracks "modern slavery" like forced labor and the sex trade, the State Department said growing poverty around the world has sparked an increase in both supply and demand for human trafficking.

"In a time of economic crisis, victims are more vulnerable, affected communities are more vulnerable," Luis de Baca said as he presented the report.

"Persons who are under economic stress are more likely to fall prey to the wiles of the traffickers who often get their victims through promises of a better life, promises of better earnings," he said.

De Baca said human trafficking can be valued at about $50 billion a year. That includes about $31 billion profit earned by the traffickers plus about $20 billion in opportunity cost from lost labor of the people who are put into bondage.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged governments to work to eliminate forms of human trafficking.

"This year, there is a new urgency in this call," she wrote in a letter prefacing the report.

"As the ongoing financial crisis takes an increasing toll on many of the world's migrants -- who often risk everything for the slim hope of a better future for their families -- too often they are ensnared by traffickers who exploit their desperation."   Continued...

<p>Illegal immigrants from Somalia wait before boarding a vessel in the port town of Bossaso March 13, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer</p>