By Ambassador Callista L. Gingrich
January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
The scourge of human trafficking is a stain on all of humanity. It invades borders, destroys communities, and robs millions of their human dignity.
It is estimated that there are more than 25 million men, women, and children who are victims of human trafficking around the world.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s annual 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, which assesses efforts by foreign governments to combat human trafficking, 11 countries were found to have a “government policy or pattern” of human trafficking. This state-sponsored trafficking occurs in government-funded programs, through forced labor in government-affiliated sectors, sexual slavery in government camps, or through the recruitment of child soldiers.
In addition to designating some of the world’s worst perpetrators of human trafficking, the TIP report shines a spotlight on countries and individuals who are working to put an end to these abuses.
The State Department recognized the increasing efforts of 21 countries, including Cyprus, Germany, and Iceland, to combat human trafficking. Further, six individuals were honored from Bangladesh, Jordan, Liberia, Poland, Thailand, and Ukraine as TIP Report Heroes for their tireless efforts to protect survivors, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad.
Human trafficking is a crime that knows no borders. Ending this global scourge demands both action and cooperation. No single government or individual can do it alone. Governments, faith-based organizations, civil society, and survivors must work together.
Additionally, law enforcement agencies play a crucial part in the fight against this abhorrent evil.
In August 2022, the 12th FBI-led Operation Cross Country rescued hundreds of survivors in 391 operations over a two-week period. This joint law enforcement operation coordinates efforts across the FBI, state and local police, as well as social service agencies to rescue survivors of human trafficking, particularly children, and arrest criminals that carry out these crimes.
As part of Operation Cross Country, the FBI worked with 200 state, local, and federal partners to locate 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
Additionally, 141 adult victims of human trafficking were rescued, and 85 suspects were identified or arrested.
Operation Cross Country not only works to put an end to human trafficking but also works to bring awareness and attention to the widespread tragedy of these crimes in communities across the United States.
Michelle DeLaune, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) said, “The success of Operation Cross country reinforces what NCMEC sees every day.”
Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights abuses of our time, and tragically, is more common than many people recognize.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Month is an urgent call to renew and strengthen our commitment to champion survivors, bring justice to perpetrators, and work together to eradicate this horrific crime.