This January 11th, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, an annual observance introduced further to a 2007 Senate resolution in the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign defines human trafficking as a crime that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion in exchange for labor, services, or commercial sex acts. Join us in donning a piece of blue clothing for #WearBlueDay and help us to encourage greater public awareness of this heinous, and all too pervasive, crime we are working to combat.
According to a 2017 report by anti-slavery NGO Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children are trapped in modern-day slavery– a figure as overwhelming as it is shocking. A 2014 ILO report estimated that this activity generates US$150 billion in illegal profits per year.
A common misperception is that human trafficking only happens in developing nations, and is not an activity taking place on our home turf. The most recent U.S. Justice Department statistics estimate that 14,500–17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. every year, and thousands of youth born in the United States are at risk for trafficking into the commercial sex industry. Human trafficking and modern slavery continue to be pervasive in almost all communities, and the need to raise public awareness is critical.
So, where does Western Union enter into this equation? Unfortunately, all financial institutions are potential targets for those who wish to channel funds for illicit purposes and Western Union is by no means unique in this regard. We vigorously condemn activities facilitating human trafficking and devote significant resources to our Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative to help detect, deter and report the misuse of our services.
In 2013, Western Union became a founding member of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign, an initiative that strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring to justice those who exploit human lives. We have provided the Blue Campaign’s multilingual training and awareness materials to Western Union Agents across the United States. These materials highlight the signs of human trafficking and how to accurately report them. Select Agents in hotspots around the globe also receive additional training on how to detect a potential human trafficking victim and how to involve law enforcement.
More recently, we’ve partnered with a variety of leading non-profit and public-private partnership groups to share Western Union’s experience with identifying and mitigating financial activity stemming from human trafficking and to contribute to the fight against this crime. Groups we partner include the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC & NCMEC), the Child Rescue Coalition, and the Traffick Analysis Hub – an international conglomerate focused on combatting human trafficking through the sharing of data and expertise.
It’s my firm belief that cross-sector collaboration that facilitates awareness and information, and enhances our understanding and ability to identify, disrupt and report suspicious activity pertaining to human trafficking is the most effective path to tackling the exploitation and trafficking of people.
In collaboration with law enforcement agencies, NGOs and other entities, our own Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has conducted more than 2,300 human trafficking investigations resulting in hundreds of arrests of criminals and rescues of victims since 2013.
Help us to spread awareness of this hateful crime and join us in #WearBlueDay!