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Will Coronavirus Halt Human Trafficking in the U.S.? (OPINION)


(Source: CDC 2020)


Human trafficking is known to affect vulnerable populations. Those fleeing war and famine or those searching for work in a new location are equally compromised and susceptible to being preyed upon by traffickers. But how will coronavirus affect this illegal and immoral industry?


Coronavirus has halted international flights and cross-border travel in most countries around the world. Seeing the dramatic pause in international travel, there is likely to be a decrease in international trafficking of humans. However, human trafficking can also occur within a nation's borders. For example, in 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the United States received over 41,000 calls with 10,949 confirmed cases of human trafficking, a 20% increase from the year prior. Yet even these statistics do not accurately reflect the total number of those currently in a trafficking situation in the U.S., which is estimated by the International Labor Organization to be within the hundred thousands.


Human trafficking victims typically are those who have runaway, are homeless, have suffered abuse, violence, or trauma, or are new to the country and trying to establish themselves. Traffickers often use psychological techniques to control these vulnerable individuals, drawing them into a world of sex trafficking and/or forced labor. With the self quarantines in place in the U.S., though, there is likely to be a substantial decrease of people living on the streets, fleeing abusive situations, or moving to the U.S., which is a separate problem in itself. The lack of "targets" for traffickers suggests that the trafficking industry will suffer and these vulnerable individuals will be safe from being trafficked, for the time being.


What should we do to prevent these people from becoming victims of human trafficking? Well, we are in quarantine for who knows how long, so it is vital to educate and prepare people with facts to help them in the world post-coronavirus. Check out the National Human Trafficking Hotline's Resources page for information to combat trafficking while combatting the virus at home.

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