There’s a movie going around that’s getting some major press. It presents an anti-trafficking group as the saviours of children caught in the child sex trade.

The only problem?

It’s a fantasy.

Sure, there’s elements of a real story — organisation, people, even rescue missions — but the truly effective work of anti-trafficking is less glamourous. Instead of sting operations, it’s more about policy changes and resources for local groups to provide effective assistance.

Heroes need not apply

By seeking to be heroes some groups are harming efforts more than helping.

Conducting a sting on a human trafficking group might help arrest some low level members, but if there isn’t a support system in place, the kids freed won’t go back to their families. And even if they do, they need help to recover from their trauma and protection from the people who sold them in the first place.

You see while there are gangs who snatch children, most people end up in trafficking situations due to a person they, or their family knows.

So why aren’t we doing more for anti-trafficking support?

Anti-trafficking is tough.

It involves many parts to make sure we can catch the perpetrators, help the abused recover, and ensure they aren’t trafficked again. That typically means

  • intelligence and surveillance to identify networks
  • educating communities to spot the signs of traffickers and trafficked people
  • policy which allows trafficked people safe haven
  • support structures for their long-term recovery.

That costs a lot more than taking down a few local crooks and patting yourself on the back saying job well done. It also doesn’t help that safe haven policies are anathema for right of centre parties (and some left of centre ones too).

And finally, it’s a global challenge.

To prevent trafficking of people from developing to developed countries we need the right structures in place in both countries and coordination between each. With budgets stretched and a lack of political appetites for cooperation, that makes it extremely challenging.

It’s far easier for a group to claim they are the heroes doing what governments won’t, all the while merely putting people back into the same situations that lead to them being trafficked in the first place.

How to actually take a stand against human trafficking.

There are many long standing human trafficking groups such as Stop the Traffik who are making meaningful, long-term changes to help end human slavery.

Look for groups such as these rather than wannabe soldiers.