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Understanding human trafficking

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- President Barack Obama has called human trafficking, "modern slavery," adding, "It ought to concern every person."

Human trafficking, or trafficking in persons, may be thought of as an exclusive problem outside the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, however, human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal activities here.

Recently the State Department announced that the White House brought together advocates, service providers, researchers and academics, business leaders, faith leaders, leaders in the technology community, law enforcement and local, state and federal government leaders to discuss the issue.

157th Air Refueling Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Capt. Karl Smith is responsible for ensuring the annual Total Force Awareness Training on base is completed.

"Trafficking in persons is a significant worldwide problem posing a transnational threat involving violations of basic human rights," said Smith. "It is the leading source of profits for organized crime, generating billions of dollars."

According to the Polaris Project, a non-profit organization working on the issue of human trafficking, it is estimated that there are thousands of children in the sex trade in the U.S. In addition, many forms of forced labor have been uncovered throughout the U.S.

According to the State Department's website, trafficking in persons can include elements of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for the purpose of exploitation. The three most common forms of trafficking are labor trafficking, sex trafficking and child soldiering.

"Human trafficking is not always persons unwillingly placed in a situation, many times it is persons unwillingly held in a situation," said Smith. "The U.S. State Department provides several examples of cases where individuals enter into a situation that they believe is safe and results in their being oppressed."

He went on to say training is the key to better understanding and recognizing trafficking in persons.

"Trafficking in persons is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to pressure someone into labor or services," said Smith. "It involves exploitation of all types."

Often people who are victimized are deceived into coming to a more developed country for a better life. After they agree to come, they are indebted to their handlers until they raise enough money to pay for their travel. The traffickers then go back on their word and force their victims into free labor by holding their passport or threatening to report them to immigration officials.

More than 3.2 million servicemembers serve in more than 140 countries around the world. That footprint provides an opportunity to make an impact on combating human trafficking.

"We have servicemembers in every corner of the globe, but this crime can happen here in New Hampshire," Smith said. "The Department of Defense's zero tolerance policy with human trafficking stems from the seriousness of the crime that has no global boundaries. Any member who suspects an instance of human trafficking should report it through their chain of command or to the DoD IG hotline at email.hotline@dodig.mil or by calling 800-424-9098."

In addition to what is specified above, personnel should report any suspicious behavior to the 157th Security Forces Squadron. A National Human Trafficking Resource Center is available, too, at 888-3737-888.

For further information, contact Capt. Karl Smith at 603-430-3292 or the wing alternate, 2nd Lt. Steve Kawonczyk at 603-430-2546.
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