Human Trafficking Talk Brings Issue Closer to Home

By Kim Friel
Student Life Editor

Environmentalist and human rights activist Binka Le Breton visited Washington College this past Thursday evening to give an informative lecture on a somewhat unspoken reality.
In her lecture, Le Breton referenced movies we may have all seen such as Slumdog Millionaire, Blood Diamond and Taken, but how much are we truly informed on human trafficking?

Le Breton informed her audience that human trafficking happens all over the world, victimizing an estimated 12.3 million a year and is a billion dollar industry.  However, that number only tracks accounted cases. Humans, particularly children, are traded into slavery by their own family members or deceived by those who promise a “better” life. They are trafficked into sex slavery, child domestic work, and child labor.  Le Breton brought to life these scenarios by real life occurrences.  In Brazil, the eight-year-old girls in sex slavery spend a few weeks in mining camps, and are referred to as “fresh meat.”

Child domestic work is seen in Haiti when orphaned children, who think they are being lovingly adopted, are instead turned into the family’s maid and are sexually assaulted by any, if not all, family members.  In India, children laborers work 12 hours to weave carpets because, supposedly, only their small hands get the tedious job done.

Another objective Le Breton made clear for her audience is that human trafficking is not only seen in third world and developing countries On Sept 7, the said to be largest labor trafficking case in United States history was discovered and is currently in trail as Global Horizons Manpower Inc. has allegedly trafficked and enslaved an estimated 400 Thai farmers to work on American soil.  An article in The Los Angeles Times tells of the corruption that has been going on in our country since 2003.

“A 42-year-old farm worker described being recruited by Thai associates of Global Horizons to pick apples in Washington and pineapples in Hawaii. They promised him a 40-hour work week with pay that amounted to more than 10 times his $100 monthly income as a struggling rice farmer in rural Thailand, he said.  The man, who went by the pseudonym “Lee” to protect his identity, arrived in Seattle on July 4, 2004. But rather than finding freedom and independence, [Lee] said, he was charged an $18,000 recruiting fee and given less than half the work promised. The recruiters confiscated his passport, confined him to a wooden shack, warned him not to speak to anyone outside the farm, and threatened him with violence and deportation if he tried to escape, he said.” (LA times)

Hitting close to home, Le Breton shared the human trafficking reports of the summer from the Eastern Shore.  In further research, WBOC16 news reports that on July 7 a house was seized on E. Dover Street in Easton, where a 32-year-old Hispanic woman was found. She is being charged on two counts of prostitution and is the victim on human trafficking.  Also in July, The American University Washington College of Law cracked down on the flawed H2B visa that has allowed Mexican seasonal workers (making up about 75 percent of the crab picking industry) to work in cruel conditions.

Amanda Kloer, writer for, reports: “The living conditions for several of the workers interviewed were appalling. The housing provided to them had problems with backed-up sewage and there was no working stove. They weren’t provided with access to transportation to do simple things like buy groceries or visit a doctor. They also weren’t trained for their jobs, resulting in cuts and infections, the likes of which could comprise the safety of the food they handled. Skin cuts and abrasions while handling seafood also allow a dangerous bacterium called vibrio vulnificus, which is carried by sea life, to get into the bloodstream, where it has a 50 percent mortality rate.”

In ending her lecture, Le Breton answered the question of how to find out about these cases: “through escaped victims, but most victims don’t escape.”  It is easy to understand why victims of human trafficking would be afraid to speak out. Le Breton explained how victims are constantly threatened, assaulted, or thought to be in financial debt to those who traffic them.  Le Breton has shared a few tips on how we as consumers can stop fueling human trafficking, such as tracing the supply train right down to where the raw materials come from in our grocery stores, supporting organizations that work to abolish and enforce antislavery laws, and boycotting companies with bad labor practices. With human trafficking happening not only around the world, but even in our own towns, we can take steps to stop it.  We can keep an open eye out for suspicious activity in our own community, spread awareness, and be the voice for those who are silenced by human trafficking.

2 thoughts on “Human Trafficking Talk Brings Issue Closer to Home

  1. Trafficking is a global issue tragedy of trafficking is South Asia where thousand of young girls and boys are sold into modern-day slavery.Theses are some of the stories which provides a compelling look into this dark, inhuman, and exploitative world and shows how each one of us can help to prevent modern-day slavery.

  2. Thank you, Binka Le Breton, for visiting Washington College and delivering a powerful lecture on Human Trafficking. Everything that’s done to raise awareness is laudable because awareness is the key to a long-term solution to this problem. A society that is educated about the reality of the horror that Human Traffickers impose upon their victims, and the proximity and scale of the problem will not tolerate it. Young people who are aware of the ugliness of the possible consequences of allowing themselves to be enticed by seemingly friendly acquaintances, will be more cautious and less likely to put themselves at risk. – Prof Patt,

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