January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. The International Institute of Akron works with survivors of human trafficking and values creating awareness to protect vulnerable individuals around the world, including here in Northeast Ohio.
As defined by National Human Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will.
While many Ohioans view Human Trafficking as something that happens outside the U.S. or only in major cities, the reality is that Ohio is ranked fourth in the country for number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. The Columbus Dispatch reported 375 cases of human trafficking in 2016, up from 289 in 2015. Additionally, many cases of human trafficking are go unreported due to fear of retribution or lack of legal status in the U.S.
On a more local level, the Summit County Collaborative Against Human Trafficking conducted an investigation from December 2014 to March 2015 on Human Trafficking in and around Summit County. By reading ads on the Craigslist-like website Backpage in the Akron/Canton section they found that Fairlawn and East Avenue in Akron ranked as two of the top locations in which sex-trafficking ads were posted. Most locations were near major highways with hotel and motels surrounding them.
Immigrant women and children are the most susceptible to human trafficking. According to an article posted by the ACLU, U.S. victims of trafficking are almost exclusively immigrants, and mostly immigrant women. Lower levels of education, inability to speak English, immigration status, and lack of familiarity with U.S. employment protections makes them more vulnerable to the deceptiveness of traffickers.
There are many signs to tell if someone is a victim of human trafficking, including, but not limited to: excessively long/unusual hours spent at work, anxiousness or depression, malnourishment, and few or no personal possessions.
“When host countries buckle under the strain of a migration crisis, migrants are forced to rely on smugglers, treacherous routes, and impossible border crossings in a continual search for protection. This creates a greenhouse effect where human traffickers use coercive recruitment tactics such as fraudulent job offers, shelter, or education which seem extremely appealing to vulnerable immigrants in the absence of durable solutions. IIA is vigilant in detecting and serving those who fall prey to such tactics, and during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we honor the survivors for their courage and resilience.” -- Madhu Sharma, Acting Director and Director of Immigration Services at the International Institute of Akron.
IIA provides immigration legal services to survivors of human trafficking. In support of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we honor the survivors and their courage seek to help. For more information or for a consultation, visit https://www.iiakron.org/immigration. To support IIA in providing legal services for survivors of human trafficking, donate today by clicking the box above.