WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 12, 2018) – Polaris released a new report today detailing how traffickers exploit legitimate systems within multiple business sectors for their own profits. From traffickers who use banks to store their earnings and buses to move their victims around, to the hotel rooms that are integral to the operations of some sex traffickers and the social media platforms that are vital recruitment tools, the report highlights the ways exploitation occurs and the changes businesses need to make to their systems to limit human trafficking.
Specifically, the analysis explores how the financial services, social media, transportation, hospitality, housing, and health care industries are being used during recruitment of victims into trafficking situations, as well as means for continued control. Critically, it also spotlights how survivors can use these systems along their path of recovery—as long as opportunities to do so are made readily available.
“Human trafficking is a $150 billion a year global industry and can’t be fully addressed without businesses taking active and effective measures to reduce the potential for exploitation within their own systems,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris. “The more that is known about the business plans of traffickers and how they intersect with legitimate systems, the more possible it becomes to disrupt the crime and prevent traffickers from using the business sector to exploit people in the first place.”
In addition to the deep analysis of each sector, the report highlights crucial areas in need of improvement, including steps that each sector should take:
Financial Services Industry
Assist survivors in rebuilding their economic portfolio by providing access to financial services, such as simple bank accounts and reasonable credit cards, to help build credit.
Pass legislation to allow for transparency of corporate beneficial ownership. Traffickers use this lack of disclosure to set up complex money laundering schemes and otherwise hide the true nature of their activities. The federal government should enact legislation requiring every registered business to disclose their beneficial owner, and that, at the very least, that information should be available to law enforcement.
Implement innovative safety features the could benefit survivors, such as disappearing messages and passcode protected folders or photo albums, as well as defaulting to “opt-in” options instead of requiring users to “opt out” when rolling out new features that could be used to stalk or harm survivors (such as geo-location services).
Enable targeted ads for anti-human trafficking organizations to intelligently offer sponsored posts connecting potential victims and survivors to resources and help.
Provide travel vouchers or points donations to fill a glaring lack of transportation options available to survivors, both to help them actually get free from their trafficking situations and, equally importantly, to provide them with transportation to critical resources they need to rebuild their lives.
Adopt policies to directly hire employees whenever possible. The more removed or tenuous an employment relationship is, the more vulnerable workers are to abuse, including debt bondage, threats, and other severe labor violations. If it is not possible for a business to directly hire all personnel, Polaris strongly recommends hotel owners and management thoroughly research subcontractors’ recruitment and business practices and create enforceable oversight systems.
Include victims of human trafficking as a target population for domestic violence shelters. When a trafficking-specific shelter is not available, domestic violence shelters are the best suited out of any other institution to fill the gaps. Domestic violence shelters will need additional resources to do so, and some will need to revamp certain policies to meet the needs of both populations.
Include housing protections in lease agreements for survivors. Landlords and residential management companies should include basic rights and protections into standard lease agreements protecting survivors of human trafficking from housing discrimination, eviction, or other punishment based on their status or history as a victim of crime. These include, for example, the right to have locks changed or other reasonable security enhancements and the right to break a lease without penalty with adequate documentation of their victim status. This mirrors a requirement currently in place for all HUD housing programs for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking as outlined in the 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Create and implement a trauma-informed care and training protocol for health facility staff, bolstered by efforts to put information about seeking help through the National Human Trafficking Hotline and other resources in hospital waiting rooms, restrooms, and other frequently visited areas.
Urge Congress to pass the Stop, Observe, Ask, and Respond (S.O.A.R.) to Health and Wellness Act to reauthorize and expand funding to ensure that health care and related professionals have access to comprehensive training and technical assistance to help trafficking victims.
This report builds upon Polaris’s 2017 report, The Typology of Modern Slavery, which analyzed data gleaned from nearly 10 years of operating the National Human Trafficking Hotline to show that human trafficking in the United States consists of 25 distinct business models.
The information about how each of these systems and industries are exploited by trafficking business models comes from extensive surveys of and focus groups with survivors of all types of human trafficking, as well as from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. These recommendations are also not intended to be conclusive. They are not definitive scientific conclusions, but rather valuable baseline narratives that can spark further exploration and collaboration from other sectors.
People can be connected to help or report a tip of suspected human trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, texting “BeFree” (233733), or chatting at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.
Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris acts as a catalyst to systemically disrupt the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. By working with government leaders, the world’s leading technology corporations, and local partners, Polaris equips communities to identify, report, and prevent human trafficking. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.