Images of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean are perhaps the most shocking ones of migration we have seen so far. But far beyond those images are stories of exploitation that refugees risk at every step of their journey to safety.

The increasing perils of trafficking are not restricted to those who cross seas into Europe but for all refugees seeking sanctuary amidst volatile crises across the globe. Warring parties often turn human traffickers and war-affected populations their victims. More so in Africa, where half of all human trafficking victims originate.

The risk of exploitation hovers over every step of a refugee’s journey - from the origin of their persecution, en route to a safer place, the arrival at a sanctum and during the long wait in their host countries. The problem warrants more concerted attention than it gets now.

Organized crime is diversifying with traditional drug smugglers now expanding into the growing (and lucrative) market of human trafficking. Smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean has become huge business as Europe witnessed the largest ever migration in 2016.

People smuggling has turned out to be “a very lucrative business” with the amount involved rising even as the risks fall for criminal gangs. A year ago, the cost for a migrant from West Africa to reach mainland Europe was around €4000. Now, that amount has doubled or more.

The increased fees have put many of the migrants at risk by not being able to pay. According to Europol, many of these children and women end up as sex slaves in Europe. As a result of the migrant crisis, thousands of prostitutes in Italy are of African origin.

Drug dealing is another common way for migrants to pay back their debt and has become widespread in Europe. Other extreme ways of smugglers recouping their fare include organ harvesting and forced labor.

In comparison, people of Kenya, the focus of Women Like Us, are far better off. A stable growing economy, government, and infrastructure lays the foundation for considerable improvement through the work of international agencies. The issues to be dealt with this African nation are access to education, increasing the awareness of exploitation, health and employment.

The United States has long helped Kenya in its struggle against poverty and health issues - mainly HIV/AIDS. Aid programs are designed to increase the uptake of and adherence to quality in treatment services, ensure long-term follow-up including laboratory and logistics support, while boosting community facilities and county response.

With such assistance, aid organizations have made considerable progress in recent years promoting education and empowering the women and girl children of Kenya. But much more needs to be done, and we all can help.

 

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