Human trafficking remains a hidden crime and since the COVID-19 pandemic, it was driven even deeper underground. According to the 2020 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking of Persons, in 2018 there was a 30% increase in global child trafficking victims. Human trafficking is a humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed because it goes against basic human rights and is modern slavery. Some organizations have responded to the crisis in the best way they could, and these efforts should be highlighted to increase support and action.
In particular, the anti-child trafficking organization, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), is well known for its rescue operation missions in extracting children who have fallen victim to the trafficking industry. The OUR website states its promise to save children from trafficking and bring justice to the perpetrators. They have engaged in operations such as freeing 34 trafficked workers in the Mediterranean. Founder, Tim Ballard, expressed in a podcast interview with Jordan Harbinger, that trafficking requires immediate attention as it is a form of modern slavery that needs to be stopped.
The OUR approach is mainly tackling human trafficking through raid and rescue. However, they also facilitate aftercare programs that provide mental, physical, and health support for victims in the long term. From the physical rescue to aftercare health and support programs, they aim to balance what is necessary to abolish human trafficking.
OUR is not the only organization to use such rescue strategies. Thomas Stackpole, from Foreign Policy, writes that even government organizations such as the FBI use this strategy as part of their framework which has previously worked in 2003, where they saved more than 3600 children.
Although effective, a criticism of this strategy would be that it does not tackle the root causes of human trafficking itself. The strategy concentrates on the aftermath of trafficking, rather than tackling the issues of what causes human trafficking in the first place. Trafficking could still occur if economic and social situations do not change, therefore the root causes should not go unnoticed. The 2020 UNODC Global Report showed that economic disparity is a major factor causing people to be lured into the trafficking industry. Hence, it is important to also put focus on what causes human trafficking to tackle the root of the problem, rather than waiting for the atrocity to occur before acting.
Another criticism is that raid and rescue missions could drive trafficking industries to go deeper underground with their operations, making it harder for organizations to counteract the problem.
However, the efforts of organizations such as OUR should not be disregarded, as they are using their skills and abilities in effective ways that help in the abolition of human trafficking. Trafficking is an existing problem and these organizations can use their specific tools to help those who are already in the situation. If their objectives are spread too thin across different anti-trafficking strategies, they would not be able to run missions as effective as the ones they are running now. This is why it is important for those in higher positions to provide support and resources for organizations fighting against human trafficking, so they can carry out their specialized work the best way they can.