Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?

It is commonly referred to as “human trafficking,” “trafficking in persons,” and “modern slavery,” and all of these umbrella terms describe the same act –  recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. It is a crime that creates and deepens the misery of others.

As stated in the U.S. Department of State 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report:

“Human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were exploited in their hometown, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.

The heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers’ goal of exploiting and enslaving their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so.”

There are two categories of human trafficking: Labor Trafficking and Sex Trafficking.

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Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises because it holds relatively low risk with high profit potential. Profits rival that of the drugs and arms trade and currently exceed 150 billion per year. And unlike narcotics, humans can be re-sold repeatedly.

Today, slaves are cheaper than they have ever been in history. Adjusted to today’s value, the average price of a slave in the year 1809 was $40,000; two hundred years later, the average price of a slave is currently $90.

And why is this? It’s simple supply and demand – an increasing population size has created a great supply of workers – but it has also created people who are desperate for work, and who are vulnerable.

Human Trafficking in Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i is no exception and has seen high profile cases in the last few years, particularly cases that have highlighted the exploitation of migrant workers in Hawaii’s agricultural industries.

In 2015 the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 57 calls regarding incidences related to human trafficking (sex and labor) in Hawai‘i and 21 confirmed cases.

While there is more investigative reporting to be done, the global and even the local Hawai‘i seafood industry also has become increasingly connected with human trafficking. Victims have been reported along the entire supply and distribution chain, especially in the Asia-Pacific – from the fishermen recruited who end up as “sea slaves,” to the hazardous and even violent working conditions aboard the fishing vessels, to child labor in fish and shrimp processing plants. Hawai‘i is not immune to these impacts.

As consumers of goods and services we may be connected to human trafficking more closely than we imagine, even if indirectly.


US Department of State  (2015) Trafficking in Persons Report.  Retrieved from

The CNN Freedom Project:  Ending Modern-Day Slavery.  Retrieved from

The New York Times. Human Trafficking. Retrieved from

International Labor Organization.  Forced labor, human trafficking and slavery. Retrieved from

National Human Trafficking Resource Center.  Retrieved from

Facts and Figures

  • Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
  • Almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises and over 2 million by the state or rebel groups.
  • Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
  • Forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year.
  • Domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment are among the sectors most concerned.
  • Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to forced labour.

Source: International Labor Organization.  Forced labor, human trafficking and slavery. Retrieved from