Details are still developing surrounding the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were discovered in a sealed refrigerator container on a truck in England this month. Was the container truly refrigerated, how did these men and women end up in this container, how long were they locked in the container, who are they, where did they board and why? Despite the many questions, what is seemingly clear is that this is a case of human trafficking, either people who were in search of a better life, or people forced into labor in an unfamiliar country. I found myself describing this as a troubling case of human trafficking, but isn’t any form of human trafficking, troubling?
Human trafficking takes place around the globe with human beings being threatened into situations they see no way out of. No freedom, no voice, no identity, just servants living a life that is not their own. It’s hard to fathom that this underground criminal activity is thriving. It’s modern-day slavery. A trafficker uses violence, fear or coercion to force people into labor or commercial sex acts.
There are groups working to put a spotlight on, and to stop, human trafficking, but the progress is slow. Unfortunately, it takes a horrific discovery like the one in southeastern England for the world to take notice. Human trafficking is everywhere. Would you recognize it if you saw it? Do you know the signs? Would you alert law enforcement to your suspicions? Please look around as you walk, ride, and encounter people. If something feels wrong, report your observations to law enforcement. If you see an individual who appears frightened, has signs of physical abuse, shies away from eye contact, doesn’t speak in the presence of others, appears withdrawn, ask yourself if this could be a case of human trafficking. It takes the actions of just one person to save another.
Our thoughts are with the families who are learning the tragic news of loved ones who died sealed in a shipping container. We await answers, as they do, but their pain must be heartbreaking. Human trafficking is despicable and horrifying. Let’s not forget the 39 who died. May they become the champions behind a renewed effort to put an end to human trafficking.