You know that moment when you read something, and then immediately have to re-read it because you cannot believe it is true?
That happened to me when I read that the levels of slavery and people trafficking today are greater than at any point in history.
Surely that cannot be right?
Obviously there is no precise figure, but the International Labor Organization and respected abolitionists like Kevin Bales and Siddharth Kara put the global number of slaves at between 10-30 million worldwide. At a minimum, 10 million.
Driving the global people trading business is ruthless greed, vast returns on investment and crucially, government ineffectiveness. The same as most criminal enterprises.
And the numbers involved are extraordinary.
The United Nations estimates the total market value of human trafficking at 32 billion U.S. dollars. In Europe, criminals are pocketing around $2.5 billion per year through sexual exploitation and forced labor.
But let’s remember the commodity here is not drugs or contraband; it is human beings. And usually the most vulnerable in society.
Those unable to defend themselves, those who innocently trust the intentions of others, those who can easily be made to disappear.
The cruelty and inhumanity of those who would profit from such a crime is truly shocking.
In previous centuries, when slaves were captured and traded each had a significant market value. Although their ill-treatment was often horrific, the reality was that it made economic sense to keep a slave alive and functioning, to protect what was usually a significant investment, made with a view to long term.
That is not so today. Many girls and women, who are trafficked, particularly for the sex trade, are done so with a view to high rate of return over a relatively short period of time. Then they are switched from the steady supply of replacements.
And what do you suppose happens to those who are seen to have maxed out their usefulness?
Often addicted to drugs they have been forced to take, almost certainly in the country illegally, with no support, and with no record that they ever existed.
A bad outcome is more or less assured.
It is also difficult to see any hope for the people who trade in people. They have reconciled themselves to the awful crimes that they commit, and are unlikely to stop because others tell them to.
I need a bath. Some yogurt. And a place to go doodie.