The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the International Organization for Migration has just published the first comprehensive study regarding the health of human trafficking victims. The study, which looked at men, women and children, reveals that victims of both labor and sex trafficking have severe and complex health concerns.
The study was carried out in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, working with people who had been rescued and were entering programs for victims of human trafficking.
Researchers asked participants about their living and working conditions, experiences of violence, and health outcomes. They also measured for symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Almost half of participants (48%) had been physically or sexually abused (or both) and many suffered violence such as knife and dog attacks, burning and choking. Almost two thirds (61.2%) reported symptoms of depression, and approximately two fifths reported symptoms of anxiety (42.8%) and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (38.9%).
Participants who experienced extremely excessive overtime at work, restricted freedom, bad living conditions, threats, or severe violence were more likely to report mental health issues.
Dr. Ligia Kiss, the study’s lead author, remarked that the study shows that trafficking victims have urgent health care needs, and that mental health services must be part of victim care. Dr. Cathy Zimmerman, another of the study’s authors, stated,
Our study shows there is no single profile of a trafficked person – we spoke to men, women and children of all different ages, from different countries, and with a range of experiences of exploitation.
We believe the wide range of labour sectors in which abuse occurs points to the need for greater government regulation, stringent health and safety standards, and regular inspections of sectors that are susceptible to human trafficking.
Exploitation of human beings is age-old. Although it is disheartening to see that human trafficking exists in such proportions in the 21st century, it is encouraging that various forms of these violations are increasingly recognised for what they are: modern-day slavery.