The numbers are staggering. Smuggling people into the United States and several other countries has emerged as the fastest-growing business of organized crime, and it is being run by a shadowy new crime network that has sidelined traditional criminal syndicates.
According to a report by the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, these traffickers are handling as many as 200 million people.
Pino Arlacchi, director general of the U.N. agency, says that while four centuries of slavery moved about 11.5 million people out of Africa, during the past decade more than 30 million women and children may have been trafficked within and from Southeast Asia for sexual purposes and sweatshop labor. Rates are also high in the nations of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Talk about human rights violations. This is the biggest one in the world today.
Obviously, no country likes to admit to having sexual exploitation and human trafficking. But the U.N. office rightly warns the countries of the world that they must focus on this issue or the crime racket will soon dwarf illegal worldwide drug trafficking.
What is to be done?
Among the proposals this agency is making to various governments is that anti-slavery laws be re-introduced where they have lapsed or been taken off the law books. Director Arlacchi also may recommend granting temporary residence to illegal immigrants who cooperate with authorities in identifying criminals who are smuggling people across various borders.
The United Nations hopes its Paul Revere-like warning to member countries will result in far more media scrutiny and public awareness. Let's hope so. Furthermore, this massive human rights violation cries out to be placed on the agenda of every summit meeting between major world powers.