WATCH: The vicious cycle between human trafficking and drugs
Cape Town - There is an unholy alliance between human trafficking and narcotics that is said to contribute significantly to the almost R2 trillion industry globally.
Human trafficking in a simpler form is seen as modern-day slavery, where victims are exploited for forced labour and prostitution with around 40.3 million people exploited around the world, according to Traffik Analysis Hub, an international human trafficking monitor.
Narcotics have proven to play many crucial roles in the illegal industry such as the smuggling of drugs across borders, being used as a tool to lure vulnerable victims or to maintain control of victims by rewarding an established addiction once they are hooked and even used as punishment.
According to the publication The Cause and Consequence of Human Trafficking: Human Rights Violations, traffickers make use of addictive substances to guarantee:;
• The victim will become dependent;
• Drug dependencies will make the victim incur debt to the trafficker;
• The trafficker will be able to control the victim through drug use;
• The victim may become unduly influenced to stay due to trauma bonding despite how bad the trafficking experience may be.
Video: Kritina Maharaj/African News Agency (ANA)
There are strong ties between drugs and prostitution, with victims already suffering from substance addiction becoming easy prey for human traffickers who seek to exploit the desperate and vulnerable.
“[Traffickers] learn that it’s very lucrative to sell a girl. “Drugs you can only sell once; a girl you can sell over and over again.” said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, director and co-founder of My Life My Choice, an NPO focused on combating commercial sexual exploitation.
According to Trafficking Matters, the 2017 Federal Human Trafficking Report found that human traffickers exploited victims with substance abuse issues in around 33 percent of active criminal sex trafficking cases while another study found that 84 percent of sex trafficking survivors reported substance abuse during their victimisations.
“Although addiction can present an opportunity for victim identification and intervention by healthcare providers, its negative effects last long after survivors have escaped their traffickers. These effects include preventing reliable testimony about trafficking and making it difficult for survivors to reintegrate into society,” the report highlighted.
Where victims are fortunate enough to escape, they remain in crucial need of medical support and years of rehabilitation as relapsing may see them return into what could be seen as a never-ending cycle of exploitation and abuse.