Smith calls on U.S., international community to bolster efforts to combat human trafficking
Marking this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA - P.L. 106-386), today called on the United States and nations around the world to bolster and expand their efforts to combat the worldwide scourge of human trafficking and protect those who are most vulnerable.
“Today especially, we shine a light on these unspeakable crimes and the millions of victims who are still in urgent need of help. We must remain vigilant as we work to combat the ruthless and relentless perpetrators who prey on victims, exploiting increased vulnerabilities during the pandemic,” said Smith, who has chaired 23 hearings on human trafficking.
Smith—who has authored four additional laws to combat human trafficking, including International Megan’s Law (P.L. 114-119) to provide notice to governments of intended travel by convicted sex offenders—is currently working on legislation to reauthorize his TVPA. Smith’s new legislation will provide crucial government funding to combat trafficking at home and abroad, tighten anti-trafficking standards for the U.S. and create new initiatives to prevent child trafficking, which has increased during the pandemic.
“Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a rise in human trafficking, which increasingly took an online form as individuals, especially children, were left isolated at home,” said Smith, who also serves as Special Representative on combatting human trafficking to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE-PA) and has authored 13 resolutions passed by the international body.
Opportunistic and unscrupulous traffickers are turning to social media to entice especially children who have been attending school online, using hunting and fishing strategies, said Smith. Hunting entails actively approaching victims, while fishing involves a passive approach of posting ads for commercial sex and waiting for potential victims.
“More must be done to give law enforcement the training and resources they need to respond to cases of online trafficking, particularly in the dark web.”
In January, the International Labor Organization estimated that nearly 25 million people were trapped in some form of human trafficking. In the United States alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline experienced a 40 percent rise in the crisis cases it handled in the month after the shelter-in-place order was first issued for the pandemic—which disproportionately impacted low-income earners who were often pushed into economically vulnerable situations that could lead to exploitation by traffickers.
Despise these new challenges, Smith noted that significant global progress has been made in the reporting and prosecution of traffickers since the enactment of TVPA and the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
Smith’s TVPA created the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the gold standard used by countries around the world to prevent and respond to human trafficking. Administered by the State Department, the report tracks countries’ progress to combat this modern-day slavery.
Those who would like to report a potential case of human trafficking are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.