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U.N. warns of human traffic boom

LONDON, England -- The United Nations is launching a global campaign as part of a stark warning about the "epidemic growth" in human trafficking.

A video was released on Tuesday by the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) for a global television campaign.

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organised crime with an estimated 700,000 people trafficked every year for sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Europol estimates the industry is now worth several billion pounds a year.

CNN's Marga Ortigas reports on the U.N.'s growing concern over the trafficking of humans (February 19)

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The video focuses on the trafficking in men, women and children for bonded and forced labour activities such as factory work, fieldwork or as domestic servants.

It aims to provide a warning to millions of potential victims about the dangers of trafficking and to raise consciousness among the general public about modern-day slavery.

The hope is to reach audiences in countries where trafficking originates as well as in destination countries where victims often end up.

Traffickers recruit victims with the prospect of well-paid jobs abroad, but when they reach their destination country victims' documents are usually taken and they end up as forced labour, including prostitution.

The ODCCP launched its global television campaign in January last year and its first video, which focused on the trafficking of women, has been broadcast in 35 countries.

The new video has been recorded in nine languages -- English, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Swahili, Hausa and German.

Groups such as Chinese "Snakehead" gangs charge illegal immigrants thousands of pounds to get into foreign countries, frequently extorting more money from their families at home.

The plight of the victims of such criminal activity was highlighted in June 2000 when the bodies of 58 Chinese immigrants were found in a lorry at Dover.

The victims had suffocated in a sealed container during a five-hour ferry crossing from Zeebrugge, Belgium.

Dutch lorry driver Perry Wacker, 33, was jailed for 14 years for manslaughter while Ying Guo, 30, of South Woodford, Essex, got six years for conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants into the UK.

In September 2001, a group of 26 Sri Lankan asylum seekers were found crammed inside the back of a van at Dover.

Police said the 23 men and three women were in "poor condition" and that conditions were so cramped they could have died.

Three months later, the bodies of eight refugees -- a boy aged around four and a boy and girl, both aged about 10 or 11, as well as a woman and four men -- were found in a container in the town of Wexford, Ireland.

Post mortem examinations showed the illegal migrants suffocated in the vehicle.


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