Human Trafficking as Modern-day Slavery

March 08, 2018

More than 18, 000 people are victims of human trafficking every year, according to the UN’s latest figures. The vast majority of all human trafficking victims, some 71 percent, are women and girls, and one-third are children. The industry generates more than $150 billion per year.

“Human trafficking is the buying and selling of people for the purposes of exploitation. As the world’s fastest growing criminal industry it affects every nation across the globe. It is modern-day slavery,” said Nina Nikolova, a representative of the nonprofit organization A21, which aims to “abolish slavery everywhere, forever.”

Nikolova gave a talk on the topic on Feb. 26 in AUBG’s Andrey Delchev Auditorium, focusing on the current situation in Bulgaria and Europe.

She discussed the different types of trafficking such as forced labor – forcing a person to work in captivity for little or no pay, bonded labor – forcing a person to work for low wages to pay back an impossible debt, involuntary domestic servitude – forcing a person to work and live in the same place for little or no pay, sex trafficking and child soldiers.

Nikolova further emphasized on the various methods that traffickers use to recruit victims including false immigration, sold by family, the loverboy model and more. The leading method worldwide, with 42.5 percent of all trafficking, being false jobs.

“In Europe, however, we have a bigger problem with sexual exploitation,” Nikolova said. “It is the ugliest, most awful face of human trafficking.”

Traffickers using the loverboy model, for example, usually target girls and women who come from broken families and often lack a father figure in their lives. “Human beings are wired to need and give love. When they don’t receive it, they start looking around for places to get it and traffickers take advantage of that,” Nikolova elaborated.

She also gave advice on how to look for clues that identify a possible victim of this modern-day slavery. In addition to the most obvious signals such as bruises and scars, victims would often be accompanied by a controlling person, would do not speak on their own behalf, or might be transported to or from work. Often they could be frightened to talk to outsiders and authorities, and more.  

Nikolova works alongside a group of professionals in A21 who call themselves the new abolitionists. The organization is fueled by radical hope that human beings everywhere will be rescued from bondage and completely restored.

At the heart of A21 is the one – the one woman, the one man, the one child trapped and exploited, unable to see another end to their story. Because in every single moment a number can turn into a name, a tragedy into a victory, and a belief into an action.

“In order to take action concerning the issue of human trafficking, first we need to understand people’s mindset, how they can be vulnerable to traffickers,” Nikolova said. “For people, when their basic needs are not met – shelter, food, etc. – they will do anything to survive. And traffickers are basically like vultures, just waiting around for the weakest animals to stray away.”

Nina represents A21 in Bulgaria, but the nonprofit organization operates in 11 different countries across the globe including Greece, Australia, Norway and Thailand. A21’s operational strategy, and the heart of the group, is to reach the vulnerable and disrupt the demand, rescue victims through identification and seek justice against the captors, and restore survivors and equip them to live independently.

Monday’s talk on the subject was organized by AUBG’s Logos Club, which provides a platform for the discussion and exploration of questions of an intellectual, philosophical, or spiritual nature.

“Personally, I had no idea that trafficking was a huge issue in Bulgaria,” said Rochel Canagasabey, a student from Sri Lanka and member of the Logos Club. “I always pictured that the EU monitoring would ensure that these forms of illegal activities would be very limited or even abolished.”

The grim reality, however speaks otherwise.

“I think the least we could do is raise awareness both inside the university and outside,” Canagasabey said. “We could all research the issue more and with the help of the A21 movement have awareness campaigns that would educate people. Further, we could be ambassadors who could take the seriousness of this issue back to our native countries and educate them too on this dilemma.”

Story by Nikol Meshkova

Photos by Nadezhda Yankulska

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