Hoping to raise awareness about human trafficking, a gathering was held at Genesis Mission in Corona on Saturday.
The event featured four people from various nonprofit organizations who are trying to stop trafficking as well as help the victims of such exploitation.
Raleigh Sadler, from the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, organized the program. “It can happen to anyone,” Sadler said. “It could be a 50-year-old man working on a brick kiln in India or a 25-year-old guy working on a fishing boat.”
Alissa Moore, co-founder of Nomi Network, explained that human trafficking comes in various forms.
“On the most general level it’s where an individual is being held against his or her will usually through force, coercion or manipulation.”
The most common forms that occur, she said, are forced labor, prostitution or domestic servitude. Sometimes the victims are held against their will or in the case of foreign victims, their IDs and passports are taken away from them.
Jimmy Lee, executive director of Restore NYC, a group that helps mainly international victims of trafficking and operates an undisclosed safe house in Queens for victims said exact numbers are hard to come by when it comes to the number of victims.
Lee said that the most recent estimates, which were published by the UN’s International Labor Organization, puts the number of victims at around 20 million worldwide.
Lee added that some statistics indicate the United States is the number two destination for human trafficking after Germany.
Jonathan Walton, from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a resident of Jackson Heights, said that exploitation is in people’s everyday lives.
“The clothes that we wear, the recorder that you’re recording with … our lives are pushed by exploitation and we need to push back,” Walton said. “If they’re not free, we’re not free.”
He urged the audience to vote with their wallets and not purchase products that have been made with slave or child labor.
“If you buy chocolate, you can buy fair trade chocolate. If you drink coffee, buy fair trade coffee,” Walton added.
Queens has its own problem of human trafficking. Along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, it’s believed that sex trafficking is done with the use of “chica cards,” with images of scantily clad women and phone numbers advertising “free delivery,” which are openly passed out. State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) pushed a law that criminalized the distribution of fliers and cards marketing prostitutes.
There are some signs that may point to the possibility of exploitation that Sadler said people should look for.
“Is there a language barrier, are they under mental anguish, are they in fear of their boss?” he asked. He added that other signs include visible bruising, strange tattoos or brands.
If you are a victim, know or suspect that there is human trafficking of any kind, call the local law enforcement agency or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. All reports are confidential.