Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. According to the Global Slavery Index, more than 40 million people are living in modern slavery.
While human trafficking is most often associated with commercial sex, it also includes domestic servitude, child labor and exploitation in areas like migrant farming. It can happen anywhere, to men, women or children; in suburbia and on city streets, in factories and mines and at truck stops, fields or fishing boats.
But combination of today’s risk factors makes the current environment especially dangerous.
COVID-19 and human trafficking
As COVID-19 has turned the global economy upside down, experts say human trafficking has become even more prevalent. Economic instability breeds the vulnerability on which sex and labor traffickers prey.
Homelessness is a key vulnerability for trafficking victims. Shelters remain full as they limit capacity to meet social distancing requirements. For example, health screenings required for shelter admission make it more difficult for those trying to escape dangerous situations.
Social distancing can lead to isolation and disconnection, which magnifies risks for victimization and exploitation.
COVID-19 is also disproportionately harming people of color, data shows. Black people are contracting COVID-19 at higher rates and dying at twice the rate of white people.
Black families remain more likely to live in substandard housing in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. This means areas with fewer grocery stores, banks, parks and recreation facilities. It also translates to inadequate healthcare, under-resourced public schools, greater exposure to environmental hazards and higher levels of violence.
When COVID-related job losses hit, that’s a dotted line to trafficking, putting disadvantaged people of color at greater risk of targeting.
UPS and United Way: United against human trafficking
To address this escalating situation, UPS and United Way have come together in the fight against human trafficking. Together, we’ve launched a growing effort to train community leaders to identify and stop human trafficking.
In 2018, UPSers funded United Way’s train-the-trainer program, piloted by local United Ways and 400-plus community leaders in Atlanta, Denver, Milwaukee, San Francisco and San Jose. This program teaches United Way leaders how to train their community partners to identify and report human trafficking.
UPS also established a human trafficking impact fund as part of its annual United Way Campaign. UPSers have responded generously, directing millions of their United Way contributions to the fund. UPS will continue to work with United Way to engage local agencies nationwide to train and provide critical services and support in the fight against human trafficking.
A firm commitment: UPS also partners with Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), a nonprofit that trains truck drivers to recognize and report instances of human trafficking. More than 100,000 drivers nationwide have been exposed to the TAT training materials.