It is a fact that crime had been in existence as early as man’s history. What has changed and placed an enormous difference though, are the means by which it is carried out and the scope by which it is organized. Just as technological advancement has given present-day society the ease by which we communicate and move for the purpose of development, ‘criminal minds’ likewise had been quick to utilize these mediums for their illegal purposes.
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Nowhere else along the world’s history have people been brought closer at the fastest rate possible. Mobile phones and the internet had made the world smaller, ‘vanishing’ demarcation lines across borders and cultures. Technological advancement indeed, had worked like a double-edged sword for today’s society. While global networking along industries and other lawful activities had surged productivity --- making possible the cutting of cost among various company operations that brought several billions of savings, regrettably it had also facilitated connections and exploitations of illegal activities such as that of human smuggling and trafficking.
Information that previously would have been difficult to obtain or give, are readily available at the ‘tip of one’s fingertips’. The high standard of living and the closer connection between different parts of the world opens the desire from people of less developed countries to seek out the same opportunities and benefits for themselves and their families. Constant media exposure and often inaccurate accounts from their own countrymen, who had gone abroad, had also fired up the imagination for a better life. As a result, the driving force to find ‘greener pastures’ had brought the huge immigration and trafficking problem that most western countries now face.
The shipping of a person or usually a group of people from one country to another through unlawful entry is classified as human or people smuggling. The movement is often coming from economically less developed towards the more developed first-world countries. There are also instances when certain nations are under political turmoil or war, in which case, its people would seek to escape its harsh living conditions. However, the current crisis that government immigration currently faces among popular destination countries are the numerous illegal job seekers. Many of these do not possess sufficient travel documents and/or working permits. These economic migrants are basically craving to raise their financial status in life and for their families left behind.
It is the usual case that smuggled people are knowledgeable of the fraud. Those involved in human smuggling make financial gain by transporting those who engage their services, often extracting exorbitant prices. The would-be illegal immigrant is aware of the great risk that is involved. The transaction between the two ends --- when the promise of entry to the desired destination has been completed. At that point, the illegal migrant is free.
On the other hand, trafficking entails the exploitation of people, often through fraudulent or coercive means. People are not only transported, they are often sold into forced labour or prostitution. Children and women are common victims of trafficking, who are often being handled over by syndicates.
In contrast to human smuggling, victims of trafficking are either innocent of the fraud or powerless to defend themselves of the crime. There are those that had been victimized by illegal recruiters, who were promised with higher paying jobs but are actually non-existent or entirely different in nature in the country of destination. In cases involving children, some had even been sold by their own parents for illegal adoption (A. Medetsky. “Local Women Fall Prey to Sex Slavery Abroad”). Other were kidnapped, physically mutilated and forced to work as beggars for syndicates (“Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse: Child Trafficking”).
There is no single cause for such a widespread crime that has spanned for several decades. Means may have changed through the times, but its reasons are basically caused by the presence and inter-play of such factors as: economic and/or political difficulties, the existence of criminal groups, and corruption in government.
Why would many people fall victims in trafficking or resort to human smuggling? Hardship and discontent thrust people towards desperate means, becoming unmindful of the exploitation and the dangers involved. Through fraud, traffickers offer promises of quick and easy money, persuading unguarded victims of easy relief or instant success. In such manner, many had fallen into the trap and became victims of abuse.
It is astonishing that despite the dismal situation, the legal prosecution of traffickers and to cause them to answer before the full force of the law had been severely minimized by the approach of certain governments of putting the blame on the victim. There were cases when the victims themselves were punished instead of traffickers (“New Global Treaty to Combat Sex Slavery of Women and Girls”).
To fully measure the scope of these illegal activities is close to impossibility. Because of the nature of how it is carried out, data on trafficking and people smuggling naturally is insufficient. In 2006, figures are estimated to reach about 600,000 to 800,000 illegally trafficked people across the borders of the United States. These figures would naturally rise by the millions when data selection is spread across worldwide (“Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report”).
The fight against trafficking and human smuggling had become of an international dilemma. Organized crimes governing these illegal trades had gone global and therefore require cooperation between different governments. The presence of non-government organizations or NGO’s had also been of great assistance in tracking down and helping out victims of such crimes. Some countries had already passed legislation declaring human smuggling and trafficking illegal and that those found guilty will be made subject to tough penalty.
Popular mediums like the film industry had been tapped to help raise awareness. The use of posters had also been utilized in Canada to keep and protect their minors from falling victims of trafficking (“Poster: People for Sale in Canada? The Answer Will Shock You”). International law on trafficking stipulates that participating countries should carry out the criminalization of trafficking in their own borders and must take up various measures to fight and prevent such crimes from fostering (T. Raaflaub. “Human Trafficking: International Laws”).
While many criminals involved in this trade are still ‘at large’ including their victims, government authorities are catching up and are making considerable progress.
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