Smuggled to Berlin

The Industry of Selling Humans

By Reed Szymanski

Source: DPA

Source: DPA

When stuck in poverty so severe that you consider yourself lucky to eat on a daily basis, you would probably go to extreme measures to escape your fate. As it turns out, the poverty that millions of people living in Eastern Europe face makes them easily susceptible to human traffickers eager to take advantage of them. This was the case in a recent raid on a human trafficking ring in Berlin last Thursday when 120 police officers confiscated 50 passports. The passports were being sold for 5,000 to 6,000 Euros each.

The trafficking ring was based in a funeral home, selling and using passports of dead citizens to smuggle people into Germany. Often times, people who seek human trafficking networks to illegally enter a country are under the false impression that they will have a reasonable paying job waiting at their end destination. For instance, a large ice cream cafe in Germany was raided back in 2006 and shut down for paying $1.5 Euros per hour to illegal immigrant workers, most of whom were women. Many would argue such low wages amount to some form of modern slavery, especially if you consider the average wage rate at the time was over 15 Euros. Sadly, these immigrant women were actually lucky when compared to some other women in Europe.

In recent years, many women in Eastern Europe have left their homes in search of a better life in the West. In a recent NBC News investigation, a woman named “Olga” shares her story, exemplifying the horrifying result that many other women endure when trying to better their lives. Olga, like many before her, became attracted to false tales of decent paying work in Western Europe and eventually was forced into sex slavery. Seeking the chance for a better life, she instead fell subject to forced prostitution. Her story is not unlike the stories of many other women all around the world. The 2013-2014 One Book for UC Davis, Half The Sky, gives a detailed account of many such stories.

Although some traffickers do deliver their customers to desired destinations safely, the victims of human trafficking always face the risk of severe detrimental effects to their health due to poor travel conditions and sanitation. But what can be done? Should countries tighten their borders to reduce smuggling, even though some evidence suggests that doing so actually increases human trafficking? Fortunately, there are other more prudent options, such as attacking the problem at its source and lifting developing countries out of poverty.

One of the best ways to help the economic development of poverty-stricken countries is through charitable organizations like Kiva, which focus efforts on individuals at the microeconomic level. Kiva allows people in developed countries to loan small amounts of money to hopeful entrepreneurs in developing countries. People in impoverished countries are then able to get loans to start small time businesses. Some use these funds to buy goats to make goat cheese and sell it, while others may buy a small boat to fish and sell their catch.

The police raid in Berlin was successful, but that is rarely the case. Many human trafficking rings continue to operate around the world and several hundreds of people are subjected to horrific travel, or worse, sex slavery. There are many ways to address the issue, but the important thing is that dialogue and awareness is being raised at all.


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