Saving the Exploited
The Salvation Army's Fight Against Human Trafficking Around the World
Lt. Colonel Eirwen Pallant, deputy director of the International Social Justice Commission in New York City, talks with Editor-in-Chief Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee about The Salvation fight against human trafficking around the world.
War Cry: Describe human trafficking.
Eirwen Pallant (EP): The UN’s definition talks about the act, the means and the purpose. The act is recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, the actual taking of somebody. The means: by threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, deception, fraud, abuse of power of a position [or] of a person who is vulnerable. The purpose is for exploitation. So, it’s the taking of a person, by some means, to exploit them. It covers everything from a boyfriend manipulating a girl into having sex for money with others to international organized crime.
WC: How extensive is human trafficking?
EP: Because of the nature of human trafficking, so much of it is underground. Estimates range from between four or five million to 80 million. Generally, it’s thought to be around 20 million people around the globe who are trafficked annually. This includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking (which is anybody under the age of 18), forced, bonded or debt labor, domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, forced marriage, child begging, and trafficking for human organs. About 66 percent are women, 12 percent men, 13 percent girls and 9 percent boys. Around 79 to 80 percent is thought to be trafficking for sex and about 18 percent trafficking for forced labor.
WC: What drives human trafficking?
EP: To a large extent there is demand for a commodity: sex, cheap labor, etc. People become victims of human trafficking for so many reasons. Often poverty makes them feel they don’t have a choice. They get deceived, thinking they’re being offered employment. Instead they are forced to work for little or nothing and often beaten and starved. Poverty drives human trafficking. People in poverty are deceived into thinking there will be a better life.
Gangs have preyed on vulnerable teenagers and trafficked them within their community for sex. These [teens] are desperate to be accepted and loved. Somebody comes and befriends them and then uses them.
WC: Are there any parts of the world where this is more prevalent?
EP: It affects every part of the world. People are trafficked to rich areas—Australasia, the United States and Europe—but 80 percent of trafficking is actually done in the country or the region in which the person originates. There are specific trade routes across the world. Some countries are very definitely source countries for those who are trafficked worldwide, [such as in] Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.
Even though the most trafficking is sex trafficking, in places such as West Africa nearly 100 percent is child trafficking for child labor. It’s very large in India as well.
But human trafficking goes on everywhere and it’s important that people realize that it’s not something that is somewhere else, it’s in their own neighborhood.
WC: What is The Salvation Army doing about human trafficking?
EP: Each Salvation Army territory has its own response. The responses can be divided into three different types: prevention, protection and rehabilitation.
Prevention includes raising awareness amongst our own people and the communities in which we are serving, trying to help them understand the risk, the warning signs and the things that they should do to prevent being trafficked.
In protection it’s recognizing someone has been trafficked. There are signs that people have been trafficked that you can look out for. We provide drop-in centers, safe houses, shelters, and ways of leaving.
Rehabilitation is the third part. We are involved in counseling, supporting people who have been victims. Providing them with alternative employment allows them to leave prostitution. The Salvation Army has also been involved with repatriation from a number of different countries. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the Army works with street sex workers, offering them safe haven. They often find that they are completely excommunicated from their families and communities, so it’s reuniting and reintegrating them with their communities.
There is more that can be done. In Europe, they’ve set up an anti-trafficking network. There is a contact person in every country that they can consult. The recent establishment of the International Headquarters Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force is an attempt to improve how we do things by being able to share with each other, learn from each other, learn what’s been successful, what hasn’t, what resources are needed to improve our work around the world.
WC: How can an individual make a difference?
EP: First, it’s important to live ethically. What we do affects people on the other side of the world. We need to be concerned about who’s making our clothes, who’s picking our coffee and cocoa beans, who’s making our carpets. Who am I hurting?
Don’t think it doesn’t happen in your neighborhood. If you see something that you suspect may be human trafficking, know what to do and who to contact. In the United States, the Anti-Human Trafficking Research Center is a very good point if you want to find out whom you should contact in your area.
Welcome into your corps, your church family, anyone who has been a victim of trafficking. So many are very seriously damaged, psychologically as well as physically. They have been humiliated, demeaned, made to feel that they are worth absolutely nothing. The message of the Gospel is that all people are precious to God, and therefore precious to us. And living that out in our communities is extremely important.
There are resources at the International Social Justice Commission website (www.salvationarmy.org/isjc). Here you will find a Bible study, sermon outlines, posters and prayers.