Big Story 10

Rise in calls to U.S. trafficking hotline reveals new types of abuse

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An increase in the number of trafficking victims calling a U.S. helpline has uncovered new types of exploitation, including forced door-to-door sales and forced participation in financial scams, the hotline operators said.

Last year, 7,572 trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a rise of 24 percent on 2015, according to Polaris, a charity which runs the hotline.

At least 5,550 cases related to sex trafficking and 1,057 to trafficking for forced labor, it said.

Polaris said some victims described being made to go door to door selling magazines, cleaning products and vacuum cleaners. Others were forced to engage in benefit fraud, typically carried out by stealing an identity to get social security money.

Polaris Chief Executive Bradley Myles said gathering data on the size, scale and different types of modern slavery was crucial in the fight against the problem.

“A Filipino woman in her 40s held in a home as a domestic worker is very different from a Guatemalan man in his 20s picking vegetables in the U.S. is very different from an LGBTQ homeless teenager who’s a U.S. citizen who got recruited by a pimp,” Myles told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

More than 1,000 victims who called the hotline last year were Latino with Asian and White the next two most common ethnicities.

More than 50 percent of those who were sex trafficked were below 18 when targeted, with family members and sexual partners the most likely perpetrators of trafficking, Polaris said.

Myles attributed the increased numbers of calls to outreach campaigns from organizations such as Truckers Against Trafficking - which trains truck drivers to spot exploitation - as well as victims recommending the hotline to other victims.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline was set up in 2007 and operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week, in multiple languages.