|Be Smart, Be Safe...
Don’t become a victim of the trade in people.
A Brochure by the U.S. Department of State
Bureau for International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement Affairs
What is trafficking?
Trafficking is when someone moves you from one place to another with the promise of giving you a job or offering you marriage by using coercion, fraud, deception and force. It is modern-day slavery and traffickers will not hesitate to harm you and your family.
Who are the victims of trafficking?
Trafficking is a worldwide problem.
You may think "This cannot happen to me…" but it happens to people just like you all over the world every day. We do not want to scare you, but we want you to be safe.
Young women and children may be trafficked worldwide, into neighboring countries, or within their home countries.
Have you had an interesting offer to work abroad?
Every situation is different. You may or may not know that you are being trafficked and what you will be doing once you reach your destination.
"The woman suggested that she could help me to get work somewhere abroad. She told me she had an acquaintance in Germany, a woman who could connect me with a family for whom I could be a housemaid." Upon arrival…"She said I owed her 2,000 German marks and said that I would earn that money by providing sexual services to men. I was shocked!"
– Marsha, a trafficking survivor
Often women will answer newspaper advertisements for jobs without knowing that criminals are posing as legitimate businesses such as:
• Model agencies
• Travel agencies
• Employment companies
• "Au Pair" babysitting services
• International matchmaking services
(mail order bride services)
These are only a few examples of the types of false businesses used by criminals.
"He told me then that I had been sold to him for $10,000, and that I would have to pay him back. He told me I would have to prostitute myself."
– Olga, a trafficking survivor
However, traffickers are not always strangers, oftentimes women and children are "trafficked" by someone they know:
• A relative
• A neighbor
• An acquaintance/friend
Traffickers, who may be either criminal groups or individuals, will promise employment or marriage and will offer to handle and pay for the costs of a passport, work permit, and transportation for these women and children.
What happens next?
Victims of trafficking are often placed in unsafe or illegal living or working conditions. Far from home, traffickers or employers force women and children into prostitution, sweatshop labor or other illegal activities by:
- taking away documents: passports, birth certificates, identification cards, address books.
- debt bondage: once a person has signed a contract and reached their destination, the employer or individual will keep the person’s salary to pay for the costs of travel, such as transportation, and passport and visa fees.
- physical abuse: punching, slapping, choking, pulling hair, kicking, forcing sex, and using a dangerous weapon such as a gun or knife.
"They beat me, but only across the back near the kidneys, so it would not hurt my appearance." – Olga
- emotional and psychological abuse: threatening to hurt the family or take children away, threatening to turn the person over to police or immigration officers, destroying the person’s property, humiliating and demeaning the person, forcing the person to commit illegal acts.
- isolation: being kept in a room or house with no contact with friends or social or religious groups.
While some women know before they go that they will be exotic dancers, domestic workers, farm workers or prostitutes, they may find when they arrive they will also suffer isolation and abuse, and be forced to hand over most, if not all, of their earnings to their employers or sponsors.
How can I protect myself?
If an individual or company is making plans for you to travel and work away from home:
- Know the address and telephone number of your country’s embassy or consulate closest to where you will be staying.
- Learn the name, address and telephone number of where you are going. If possible, call or write to that employer to verify that you will be working there, and ask about your work, pay and living conditions.
- Check with a non-governmental organization (especially those who specialize in women’s issues) in your country to help you determine if the person or com-pany is legitimate or trustworthy; or, if you are traveling to the USA, contact the consular office at the United States Embassy.
Most legitimate employers will provide a contract. Do not sign any contracts right away. Read through the document. If there is something you do not understand, take the contract to an attorney, non-governmental organization, or someone you trust. Watch out for language that says the employer will:
- "hold all money in trust until your contract is completed";
- "subtract your cash allowance from the sum held in trust"; or
- "retain a percentage of your money."
Be suspicious if your prospective employer obtains a tourist visa for you to work in the U.S. (see U.S. laws below).
Tell your family and friends when you are leaving and give them the address where you will be staying.
When you arrive at your destination:
Do not give your passport to anyone to keep for you! Regardless of your legal status, your employer does not need your passport and has no right to hold it.
Keep a copy of your passport information in a safe place where only you can find it.
Learn basic survival phrases in the local language.
If you are in a foreign country, register with the embassy or consulate of your home country.
Contact a family member or friend at home once you have reached your destination. Keep in contact with that person!
What Should I Know About the United States of America (U.S.A.)?
If I need help?
No one can force you to work in the United States!
Persons in the U.S. are protected by and subject to U.S. laws. Call the police if you are in danger or are being hurt. You have the right to be protected.
You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. If you do not have enough money for a lawyer, contact the local legal aid agency. You also have the right to speak to your embassy or consulate. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can also get a protection order from the U.S. court that prohibits the abuser from attacking you or contacting you and your family.
A victim of crime in the U.S. has rights! Victim assistance programs provide many services such as counseling, emergency shelter, legal aid and emergency transportation.
• Call the Worker Exploitation Complaint Line: 1-888-428-7581. Translation is available for most non-English speakers.
• The complaint line receives calls about foreign workers who have been recruited or smuggled into the U.S. and are then forced to work under terrible conditions.
• The complaint line provides a referral service for exploited workers or victims of trafficking in need of medical and other basic services.
• This complaint line assists the U.S. government to prevent, investigate, and prosecute traffickers and persons who abuse workers in the United States.
• If you are in danger, dial 911, an emergency number that will get immediate help for you everywhere in the U.S.
• If you are afraid to go to the police, there are other places where you can get help:
- Fire departments
- Religious places
- Shelters for women and children
- Legal aid agencies
- Immigrant services groups.
- Call your country’s embassy or consulate in Washington, D.C. or a major U.S. city.
What are the U.S. laws?
Traffickers face up to 20 years or, under certain circumstances up to life in prison for each act of trafficking. Traffickers will also be forced to re-pay what they stole from the victim.
For traffickers: It is a crime to bring, or attempt to bring, someone into the U.S. at a place other than the port of entry, and to encourage or induce someone to come to, enter, or remain in the U.S. in violation of the law. It is a crime to harbor, conceal, or shield illegal foreigners from detection. Involuntary servitude and slavery are extremely serious crimes under U.S. law.
For illegal entry: It is a crime to enter the U.S. without being inspected by a U.S. immigration officer. The penalty is up to two years in prison and deportation. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) can deport any person if they are in the U.S. illegally or are involved in illegal activities and deny them re-entry into the U.S.
For illegal work: It is illegal to work in the U.S. unless you have a visa which allows you to work, or the INS has formally authorized the work. To get work visas, you are required to appear personally for an interview before a U.S. Consular Officer (or an INS official if you are visiting the U.S. but want to work). Employment visas are reserved mostly for skilled laborers rather than jobs for waitressing and child care, or dancing in nightclubs. If you have questions about the requirements for a work visa, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
For prostitution: Prostitution is illegal in nearly all cities and towns in the U.S. In addition, it is a crime to transport a person or promote his or her use as a prostitute. Transporting a person into the U.S., or across state borders within the U.S., with the purpose of having that person perform as a prostitute or for other illegal purposes is also a crime.
• Survivor stories courtesy of Protection Project, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
• Image Copyright (c) Index Stock Imagery