Human trafficking continues to be an ongoing problem for countries around the world. It’s often referred to as “modern-day slavery” and touches every community.
According to the United Nations, victims of human trafficking can be of any gender, race, or nationality. But most reported cases are women and girls, and a third of the estimated victims are children.
Polaris Project recently reported that the world has seen an increase of 12% in victims worldwide between 2016 and 2021. Therefore, it’s essential to look at the worst cities for human trafficking worldwide to get a picture of where people are the most vulnerable and at risk.
What Is Human Trafficking, and How Does It Happen?
Most people have a general idea about human trafficking, but it’s a broad term. The first thing to note is that human trafficking is, fundamentally, slavery. Victims of human trafficking have been taken against their will utilizing force or deception.
The age of the internet and cell phones has made it easier for offenders to find and secure victims daily. It’s usually assumed that human trafficking victims are forced into sexual relationships, but victims are exploited in many ways. They can include:
- Forced labor for little to no money.
- Removal and sale of organs.
- Forced work in the sex trade.
- Sold for marriage against a person’s will.
Human trafficking is unpleasant to think about and horrific for the victims. Unfortunately, while most countries recognize the problem, the activities continue and worsen daily.
The 20 Worst Human Trafficking Cities Around the World
There are cities around the world that are much riskier than others for this criminal activity. Let’s look at the top 20 worst cities for human trafficking.
20. Islamabad, Pakistan
Corruption and illegal activity are at some pretty nasty heights when you have to arrest airline officials for illegal trafficking. DAWN reported that these officials gave victims fake boarding credentials to fly out of Pakistan to the United Kingdom.
While the destination might seem as though it would be a welcoming one on the surface, these women were victims of exploitation and corruption. Pakistan is known to be a hub of trafficking, and its government is working to help slow and stop this type of activity.
19, Kyiv, Ukraine
Ukraine has been in the news often in recent months for political battles, but human trafficking in the region has grown substantially over a short period. Victims are often forced into sexual exploitation or unpaid labor, robbing them of any freedom.
Children are especially vulnerable and often forced into unimaginable situations. If a child is in an orphanage, they may never have the chance to enjoy any freedom at all. They are snatched up to be used as their captors see fit.
18. Doha, Qatar
Any of the marginalized or undervalued population in Doha has the potential to become a victim of trafficking. The criminals in this area recognize that many migrant workers don’t have any solid foundations in the community. This makes them easy targets to force into hard labor or prostitution.
17. Victoria, Seychelles
The darker side of this area takes any opportunity to lure men, women, and children into sex work and forced labor. Traffickers are also known to draw foreigners to the area only to enslave them.
According to the Immigration and Civil Status Department of Seychelles, they have teamed up with the Transnational Organized Crime, Illicit Trafficking, and Terrorism Program to battle the ongoing human trafficking problem. While it may seem as though the problem may be too much for any organization to manage, every success and rescue matters.
16. Mbabane, Swaziland
Both young women and children – orphans, in particular – are the most targeted population for human traffickers. This city is not the only one in this country combating this problem. Many criminals force people into the sex trade and hard labor.
Since the communities in this region still recognize chiefs and leaders, they only need to be commanded to enter a forced labor situation before it happens. When the problem begins at the local level, it’s challenging to combat it from a national and international perspective.
15. Sofia, Bulgaria
Europe has its own human trafficking problem, and Sofia, Bulgaria, is one of the main offending cities. Trafficking often happens within the country, but servitude and captivity can extend to all countries within the EU. As with most victims, they are often forced into sex work and hard labor.
14. Las Vegas, NV
The simple belief that sex work is legal in Las Vegas has created a lucrative way for sex traffickers to make lots of money based on supply and demand. People head to Las Vegas to gamble, party, and, to be brutally honest, get laid. If a trafficker has the goods, someone will buy them.
Las Vegas is also a well-known place for people to escape, whether it’s to run away from someone or something. These are prime targets for traffickers, who treat their victims as special until they become dependent on them. Often, these victims are sex workers to continue to be “special” for their “owner.”
15. Lake Volta, Ghana
CNN reports that the use of young people, including children, forced to work almost every waking hour in the region is a relatively accepted problem. These children may look like they’re helping out on a boat, but they have been forced to work in unbelievable conditions.
Some days, they work in sweltering heat that could be fatal to them. They are also required to work at heights that, if they were to fall from, would result in death. While these children can be kidnapped from all over Ghana, most forced labor workers end up at Lake Volta.
14. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
According to The Exodus Road, Rio de Janeiro and other large cities in Brazil have a massive problem with trafficking that was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-income, poorly-educated men and women are primary targets. Children and those within the LGBTQ community are also at risk.
Indigenous people and Brazilians of African descent account for almost half of the estimated victims. Trafficking is done to obtain forced labor, sex work, forced marriages, and organ trafficking.
Forced labor and sexual exploitation are the most prolific types of trafficking in Brazil, but forced domestic labor, forced marriages, and organ trafficking also occur. As South America’s most modern and visited country, it makes Brazil an irresistible resource for these criminals.
13. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico’s cities are riddled with human traffickers, and the demand for captives continues to rise. Corruption plays a crucial role in these crimes, according to Insight Crime. In fact, they report that there are around 50 groups actively operating as traffickers.
Technology is a valuable tool for traffickers, which is thought to be how victims first contact these dangerous people. From lookouts and drug smugglers to sex workers and kidnappers, there is a growing need for victims every day.
12. St. Vincent and the Caribbean
In April 2018, BBC News reported that 350 victims of human trafficking were rescued across the Caribbean and Latin America. The rescue was coordinated by Interpol, and men, women, and children accounted for those who had been forced into unimaginable situations.
The problem with human trafficking continues as technology makes it more challenging to track and document the activities of both victims and offenders. In addition, many victims are forced to work in remote locations, making it more difficult for officials to find them.
11. Berlin, Germany
Germany has been slow to address the problem of human trafficking within Berlin and other cities, according to The Borgen Project. The victims in this area are often immigrants and desperate, making them the perfect targets to force into whatever work a trafficker needs.
German law can make it difficult for anyone to prove that there has been human trafficking. The legal system requires the victim to be able to prove that they were victimized in this way. Unfortunately, this opens the door for traffickers to use blackmail and intimidation to avoid prosecution.
10. Delhi, India
The US State Department lists India as a government failing to protect its people against human trafficking. Victims are most often victims of bonded and forced work. The area is also full of brothels, meaning traffickers will want to supply many low-cost or free workers.
The US government recommended that India increase their efforts to arrest and convict more offenders and complicit political parties. With improved education and a stand against human trafficking, the hope is to have safer cities, including Delhi, for all.
9. Colombo, Sri Lanka
The number of children forced into sex work and forced labor in Sri Lanka runs rampant, thanks to the seemingly endless supply of victims from state-run orphanages. While children are not the only victims, they continue to be used in horrific ways today.
The US State Department has reported that it would like to see cities like Colombo increase their efforts to investigate the offenders and anyone who aided those people. In addition, increasing attempts to identify immigrants and those who have gone missing would also go a long way in curbing the trafficking problem.
8. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Human trafficking is considered a career choice in Cambodia. It’s become one of the worst places where victims are used for sex work, forced labor, and organ harvesting. There are even cases where victims have been forced to be a surrogate to give birth for their captor.
Violence and assault are also on the rise. Unfortunately, many victims won’t report crimes or ask for help because they are in the country illegally or fear retaliation from their handler.
Political apathy and corruption are thought to be the main problem behind uncontrolled human trafficking in the city. Hopefully, those with power will be able to eliminate corruption, create laws that protect human trafficking victims, and prosecute those violators as quickly as possible.
7. Gauteng, South Africa
South Africa names Gauteng, along with many other provinces, as running rampant with human trafficking problems. There have been reports that sex trafficking rings will offer girls as young as 10 years old to their customers.
The pandemic, low pay, and high levels of unemployment have created a hotbed of illegal activity, taking humans and offering or selling them for various services. It makes sense that desperation leads people into unsafe situations or relationships in the name of survival.
6. Paris, France
The Council of Europe reported in 2022 that the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Human Trafficking called on the entire country to do better regarding human trafficking. At that time, it was recommended that authorities make justice available and accessible to all victims. They also recommended the establishment of a national victim ID and referral program.
France has a population susceptible to trafficking, including immigrants and people illegally transported in by captors. All types of trafficking occur here, but the rise in cases of child trafficking is especially alarming.
5. Ontario, Canada
The Toronto City News released a report citing the rise of human trafficking in Ontario and across the country in 2021. The overall report states that there’s been an increase in situations that they believe are verified cases of human trafficking.
The majority of the victims are women and children. But, even more alarming, most of those trafficked were victims of someone they knew, like a friend or casual acquaintance.
The article also states that the conviction rate for suspected offenders is low compared to other violent crimes. Part of the problem is that the victim is the best witness, but most fear retaliation if they confront their violator in court.
4. Sydney, Australia
All of Australia is affected by human trafficking, especially larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne. The Australian Federal Police website details the kinds of trafficking that can happen and what to look out for in certain situations.
Australia has attempted to be proactive as the problem continues to grow worldwide. In 1999, The Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sexual Servitude) established the crimes of sexual servitude, slavery, and deceptive recruiting. This legislation underwent substantial reform in 2005 to include more specific trafficking offenses.
3. Tel Aviv, Israel
The news source, HAARETZ, reported in the annual US report regarding human trafficking in 2021 that Israel isn’t doing as much as it should to help combat the growing problem. It pointed out a decline in police investigations and charges against possible offenders in their reports.
A bothersome area of weakness when protecting potential victims is the city and country’s failure to keep victims in shelters, rehabilitative services, and care organizations safe.
The report also states that the government isn’t doing enough to help more susceptible foreigners. While The Justice Ministry’s National Anti-Trafficking Unit says the weaknesses in the report are mainly due to the effects of the pandemic, it doesn’t do anything to help these victims.
2. London, United Kingdom
Even though London does a lot to combat human trafficking, it’s still a problem. Victims are typically those with no financial resources, immigrants, people seeking safety from their own country or people, and others. The victims are forced into a violent, fear-driven existence, doing horrific work or acts to survive.
The National Crime Agency acknowledges the problem and addresses how it looks and how to get help. But unfortunately, as fast as the solutions are posted, the traffickers continue to devise new ways to work under the radar.
1. Los Angeles, United States
It’s easy to see why California would top this list. People are constantly coming and going, looking for fame in the entertainment industry. The state also shares a border with Mexico, making crossing country borders easier than one might think.
The State of California Department of Justice website states that law enforcement has expanded its view of the trafficking of drugs and guns to include human trafficking. Yet the sophistication and tech-savvy implementation at every turn by trafficking rings seems to continue to outpace every attempt to help victims.
Stay Safe, Stay in Touch, and Stay Out of Dangerous Situations
A quick glance at this list should help you see that there’s nowhere in the world safe from human trafficking. But you can learn more about human trafficking and how you can help at the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. The more you know, the better you can stay safe while helping others stay safe, too.
You can also read:
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson