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May 20, 2014

House of Representatives Considers Bills to Combat Human Trafficking

This week the House will vote on a series of bills intended to address human trafficking and to condemn Boko Haram's abduction of students in Nigeria. The five bills, H.R. Res 573, H.R. 3610, H.R. 3530, H.R. 4225, and H.R. 4058, seek to provide services to victims, provide resources to the fight against domestic trafficking, and condemn the actions of the terrorist group.

We at Human Rights First applaud the bipartisan efforts in the House to address the abhorrent practice of human trafficking, which is a problem affecting not only the international community but thousands of enslaved workers within the United States. The introduction of these bills is an important step toward increasing the services available to victims.

We hope that these bills will help increase awareness of the breadth and severity of this issue, and lay the groundwork for ongoing work by policymakers and law enforcement officials to address the global networks engaged in trafficking. While victim-focused work is essential, there must also be a focus on disrupting the slavery exploitation network.

The business of human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise after the illicit narcotics trade, generating an estimated $32 billion per year. In 2012 an estimated 20.9 million victims were living in modern-day slavery worldwide, of which only 46,570 were identified, according to the International Labor Organization. During the same year there were only 7,705 prosecutions and 4,746 convictions globally, based on self-reported data in the Department of State's Trafficking In Persons report.

In order to reduce trafficking, increase prosecutions, and disrupt the business operations of traffickers for sex and labor, we must increase the risks, penalties, and punishments for those who exploit other human beings.