Human trafficking is a serious crime which abuses the most fundamental elements of human rights. According to the United Nations, the trafficking of human beings is described as “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation". Human trafficking differs from the smuggling of migrants across international borders in the matter of will. While smuggled migrants get into the act voluntarily, most victims of human trafficking do not volunteer to be in their ordeals.
With total revenue forecasted to be between $5 billion and $9 billion per annum, human trafficking is increasing rampantly without any indication that it will be slowing down in the near future. In third world countries and Eastern Europe where the problems of poverty are deepening, human trafficking is escalating to disturbing records. However, the real economic impact of human trafficking is difficult to measure because it is illegal and mostly carried out by criminal organizations in many countries. The most common targets of human trafficking are women who are usually forced into prostitution. Up to 70% of all trafficked human beings are women and half of them are believed to be children. Many victims of human trafficking are imprisoned, beaten, sexually exploited, threatened, or drugged so they would succumb to their handlers. Some other exploitations of human trafficking include forced labor, slavery, and the removal of organs. In the case of children, they may be forced into prostitution, adopted illegitimately, married prematurely, recruited as soldiers or beggars, or even sacrificed in religious rituals.
Since the issues of human trafficking have gained international attention, most countries have taken a stronger stance in efforts to curb or deter this form of modern slavery which often entails abduction and kidnapping. The penalties for human trafficking are different across countries. For instance, human trafficking for sexual exploitation is punishable up to a maximum of 14 years in prison in Scotland. In February 2008, three Malaysians were arrested for trafficking three Sri Lankan minors to London at Changi Airport in Singapore. One was to be jailed for 15 months, another for 10 months, and the final offender, only 4 months. The monitoring of human trafficking activities is very difficult as it involves a large amount of underground networking. Total eradication of human trafficking may be impossible but some prevention can be achieved if the people who know or suspect about such activities blow the whistle to alert the authorities. In some countries, all it takes is an anonymous phone call.