Institutional commitments against human exploitation have had a long existence in local, national, regional, and global laws and policies. Since trafficking can involve the movement of persons across international borders, one of the most important policy concerns is migration policy.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime identified poverty, political instability, social unrest, and crisis as drivers for the crime of trafficking in persons. Populations that are socially, politically, and economically marginalized within countries are particularly vulnerable to becoming trafficking victims. Economic and political disparities between countries in the global north and the global south have contributed to an increase in the movement of persons who are “economic refugees”; that is, persons who travel from an impoverished country of residence to find work in more prosperous countries.
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Global Challenges to Eradicating Human Trafficking
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The economic refugee is a class that has no legal recognition in the migration laws of most countries. Economic refugees often enter countries in irregular migration status and are therefore vulnerable to promises of employment that turn into situations of human slavery.
The International Labor Organization estimates that approximately 21 million persons are victims of forced labor (International Labor Organization. 2012 Global Estimates of Forced Labor. 1 June 2012). These numbers include persons who are laboring as child soldiers, in the sex trades, or exploited in the labor, agricultural, manufacturing, domestic, and construction industries.