What do you do in 30 seconds?
Because every 30 seconds, someone in the world becomes a victim of modern-day slavery.
This modern-day slavery is also known as human trafficking; the illegal trade of men, women, and children who are being exploited for forced labour and sex. The startling statistics show that there are approximately 27 million people enslaved today, more now in 2015 than any previous point in history.
In 2008, Christine Caine was in a Greek airport when she saw posters of missing women. She learned the women in the posters had unknowingly become victims of human trafficking the moment they arrived in the country.
“I was stunned that in our lifetime in modern history that there were that many victims of human trafficking in the world today,” Ms Caine told The Times. “I was adopted when I was in Australia. I could have so easily been one of those trafficking victims. So that for me was like, oh my gosh, I’m one degree away from this and I can do something about this.”
She went onto founding the A21 Campaign with her husband Nick, an organisation that strives to fight the injustice and shine a light on human trafficking.
A21 is based in 10 different countries, which are a mixture of shelters and prevention awareness offices. They believe in order to eradicate human trafficking in the 21st century, they need to follow the 4P Model strategy: prevention, protection, partnerships and prosecution.
On October 17, the A21 Campaign hosted its annual Walk for Freedom in major countries around the world to bring awareness to the on-going issue:
Australia, United Kingdom, United States of America
Germany, Sweden, Ukraine
Sydney’s Walk for Freedom began in Harmony Park, Surry Hills, and travelled through the CBD and ended at the iconic Sydney Opera House.
“Last year was Sydney’s first walk with only 100 people, this year there’s 500 of us,” Ms Sam Leenman, an A21 spokesperson, told The Newsroom.
Australia is regarded as ‘the lucky country‘, as we are considered a developed nation, but what might come as shock is that Australia is a destination country.
“Trafficked people usually come through immigration on a working visa where they’re usually promised a job. Their passport is then taken away and they’re forced to work. In legal brothels is where they are and also in homes, and we wouldn’t have a clue people are exploited in our country without us realising,” said Ms Leenman.
“People should be aware it’s actually happening in Australia.”
One of A21’s main focuses in Australia is awareness and education, which involves going into high schools to educate students in hopes to bring up the next generation with the understanding that there is human trafficking in the world.
Ms Leenman said the issue also affects people who are travelling overseas and are unaware of the risks they could be facing. An example of this is the hit film Taken, where its plot brought human trafficking into public conversation.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a father who can rescue you in 72 hours, that also has a particular set of skills that make him a nightmare for human traffickers. The confronting truth is that out of the millions of victims, only 1-2 per cent get rescued.
An anonymous source, who went to Thailand for missionary work, spoke to The Newsroom about their first encounter with human-trafficking.
“I was in Thailand for about a month last year, we would go on the streets of Bangkok and see hundreds of kids trying to sell things to people walking past. I met this one boy, he was about 10-years-old, and I grew a strong bond with him while I was there. On one of my last days, I went to go and look for him to say goodbye, but I couldn’t find him. I later found out that his father sold him to traffickers to make quick money, and that was too much for me.”
This type of thing isn’t common; the average age of a trafficking victim is 12-years-old.
However, with non-government organisations like A21, Ms Leenman has high hopes for the next five years; they’re aiming to see a lot more traffickers behind bars, as well as the Australian office being completely operational where they can build rescue shelters to bring victims to.
“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work, money is a massive factor and we can’t do a lot without it in terms of funding resources. But even just being that extra person out there creating the awareness can help,” said Ms Leenman.
Throughout its seven years of operation, A21 have helped bring countless victims through their restoration program, as well as assisting in 444 legal cases – seeing dozens of traffickers being prosecuted and sentenced.
A21 regularly post updates on their social media accounts to alert their followers when a person has been rescued and/or prosecuted. – Top photo of Sydney’s Walk For Freedom and story by Xantre Macaraeg