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Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is modern-day slavery. It is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, victimizing millions of people and reaping billions in profits.
Human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings, through abduction, the use or threat of force, deception, fraud, or "sale" for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Trafficking is distinct from smuggling in that trafficking is a crime or violation against a person that contains an element of coercion leading to subsequent exploitation and/or forced labor. Smuggling is an agreement with a third party to assist in the illegal crossing of an international border. A smuggling case can turn into a trafficking situation as in willing migrants who are defrauded along the way and forced into a situation they cannot control.
The Department of State estimates that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the United States annually, excluding internal trafficking that does not involve the crossing of an international border.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently launched a public awareness campaign to aid victims of human trafficking. The campaign, called "Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking," has developed various outreach and informational materials for human service agencies on how to identify victims, understand the assistance available, and take action. These materials, including educational posters, brochures, and tool kits, can be downloaded from the campaign website. Because everyone may be in a position to encounter a victim, HHS is asking organizations to share this information with everyone possible.
It is estimated that millions of people around the world are victimized each year. Most trafficked persons belong to vulnerable populations, including migrants, minorities, runaway or abused children, and the poor.
Women, who form the majority of trafficking victims, are particularly at risk from potential kidnappers who exploit lack of opportunities, promise good jobs or opportunities for study, and then force the victims to be prostitutes. The captors profit while the women suffer rape and other physical and mental violence.