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Current Affairs Special - International human trafficking: Exploring modern slavery

By Natasha Magubane

If you went up to a crowd of people and asked them to define human trafficking, the general answer would probably be ‘being forcefully take from your home and sold in to sex work’. That may be true but there is so much more to international human trafficking than meets the eye.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labour or sexual exploitation. The multibillion dollar industry is one that continues to grow as the global population grows, many innocent lives are turned upside down on a daily basis due to the lack of knowledge around international human trafficking.

*Names in this article are fictional and used for relatability

Natasha Magubane uncovers the stories behind human trafficking
Image Credit: CFR Blog

There are five main (but not limited to) types of human trafficking. These include forced labour, servitude, sexual exploitation, organ trafficking and criminal work exploitation.

Let’s unpack these. Forced labour refers to victims that are forced to work for nothing, low wages. This refers to involuntary work under poor working conditions. Servitude relates to victims are usually domestic workers who do not get paid or are paid extremely low wages to do household tasks such as cleaning, cooking and looking after children.

'The most common ways of international human trafficking are the ‘snatch and go’ method that traffickers use, - fake job posts on social media where victims are recruited under false pretences.'

Sexual exploitation, this is when victims are often recruited for non-consensual sexual abuse, their sexuality used for sexual gratification in exchange for financial gain. Organ trafficking – living or dead victims are recruited, transported by threat or force for the purpose of their organs to be removed and sold illegally.

Finally, criminal work exploitation – this is when victims are trafficked to be forced to work under the control of criminals in criminal activities such as theft, drug trafficking and even murder.

Each of the human trafficking types listed above is most likely inclusive of every natural person. It could be the woman working at the local supermarket being trafficked into criminal activity, the father of four working as a police offer trafficked into a sex slave ring as well as the young boy living with albinism.

In many African countries, people living with albinism live in fear of being trafficked due to myths surrounding albinism, some myths include supernatural powers that organs of people living with albinism possess. The idea that people with albinism can be used to perform witchcraft rituals is one of the driving forces for organ trafficking.

The most common ways of international human trafficking are the ‘snatch and go’ method that traffickers use, the fake job posts on social media where victims are recruited under false pretences. Many traffickers recruit victims by posing as companies looking to hire individuals seeking employment. If Amanda Jones and Paul Dellford* saw an advertisement on social media for a job offer and decided to apply for it; they would (like any regular person looking for employment) most likely apply and be called in for an interview; unbeknownst to them resulting in being trafficked to different countries for different purposes.

Victims of international human trafficking are not always the heavily bruised lady of the night but can be the sweet lady working at the nail salon or the homeless man whose leg is broken. Therefore, making it rather difficult to sum up the statistic of victims.

Citizens can however assist in eradicating such criminal activities. As technology advances in most countries with the introduction of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), so should the crime fighting through the same technology. Many devices and applications have been developed to aid in reporting and educating about modern slavery. Apps such as TraffickCam; which was developed with frequent travellers in mind allows the user to take pictures of their rooms and upload them on the TraffickCam database to be analysed against pictures provided by law enforcement to find traffickers and trafficking locations.


The Stop App and Redlight Traffick App which were created to report suspicious behaviour and human trafficking as well as the Life Boat Act game - which has interactive features and story-based game play, allow the user to learn more about human trafficking as well as identifying red flags in their surroundings. These are aimed at reporting suspicious behaviour and play a pivotal role in the fight against human trafficking. The traditional method of reporting human trafficking is of course calling the police on 101, dialling 999 in an instance where you witness behaviour that requires urgent response and reporting on the Modern slavery hotline on 08000 121 700.

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It is human nature to want to assist when certain activities seem dangerous or suspicious but it is highly important to be vigilant of your surroundings and be safe. Using Apps like the Lifeboat Act game aids in learning about the different ways and scenarios one may find themselves in that may be dangerous.

The Stop App can help you send an alert when faced with the unfortunate situation where you are the victim. Learning about international human trafficking not only saves lives but also provides information on how one can possibly avoid spaces, people and situations that could potentially be life threatening.




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