The Helsinki Commission has chosen to hold a hearing entitled “ Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime,” to address the growing problem of human trafficking as part of organized crime in the United States and abroad.
The United States is plagued by the issue of human trafficking with an estimated 17,000 new victims each year and with a global estimate of 700,000- 800,000 new victims. My home state of Florida is one of the top destinations in the United States for victims to be trafficked. While this modern slavery comes in many shapes and sizes, there has been an emergence of transnational organized crime groups engaging in this horrendous trade.
Groups which have traditionally specialized in the drugs trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering and fraud have expanded their operations to include slavery due to the lucrative nature of this industry. Human trafficking is estimated to create $32 billion profits annually, making it the second largest crime industry. Transnational organized crime groups recognize that unlike drugs or arms, human beings can be exploited, over and over again which results in larger profits.
Since the original Trafficking Victims Protection Authorization of 2000, the United States has been the global leader in combatting this modern day slavery. Each year the State Department releases their Trafficking in Persons Report that ranks countries all over the world by their efforts to fight trafficking in all forms. The report forces countries to take the battle against modern day slavery seriously and brings this crime to the international spotlight. I have joined 28 of my colleagues in cosponsoring the current human trafficking legislation, S.1301 The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization.
While key to the government’s efforts to fight modern day slavery is the structure provided by S.1301, the fight against transnational organized crime groups who engage in human trafficking is not an easy one. There is no typical transnational organized group. Groups vary in size from complicated networks to loosely tied cells. Some of these groups may engage in numerous illicit activities while others specialize in human trafficking. This variety makes the battle to combat this issue even tougher.
We face numerous challenges when combatting transnational organized crime including the lack of comprehensive law enforcement, poor international cooperation, lack of data, and lack of awareness on the subject matter. In particular, the crime of human trafficking is often difficult to prove and even harder to prosecute. Law enforcement officials must have special training to pursue these cases correctly.
Today, the Helsinki Commission addresses the issues faced by the international community with fighting transnational organized crime groups who engage in human trafficking. The United States and other Operations and Security and Cooperation in Europe countries need to continue to be vigilant against in the fight against human trafficking and transnational organized crime.