Some of what international affairs professor John Miller knows about human trafficking, he learned from a woman named Katya.
Katya, a mother from the Czech Republic, agreed to move to the Netherlands and earn money waiting tables. Once she arrived in Amsterdam, she was taken to a brothel and told that unless she worked there, she would not see her daughter again.
Miller, a former U.S. ambassador and current international affairs research professor spoke to a crowd of about 30 students and area professionals Tuesday night about human trafficking.
The event, hosted by the Conflict Resolution Forum, took place at the Elliott School of International Affairs.
Miller, who left his job as ambassador-at-large on international slavery in December, teaches a specialized class on human trafficking.
“It comes as a surprise to many to discover that there is still slavery in the 21st century,” Miller said.
Miller said there are 1.1 million humans trafficked across international borders each year.
“We do not know the exact number,” Miller said. “Only that (the number) is huge.”
Miller said about 80 percent of the victims are women, and up to half are minors.
“I’ve been talking facts and figures, but this is an immensely personal issue,” Miller said. “I’ve had the privilege of meeting over 1,000 survivors in 50 different countries.”
The issue not only affects developing nations but also established democracies.
“(Human trafficking) goes on in every country of the world, including the U.S.,” Miller said.
Miller highlighted three strategies to eliminate human trafficking: prosecution, protection and prevention. Only through the punishment of offending individuals or nations, current enforcement of the law and education about the issue will the rates go down, Miller said.
Although human trafficking may seem far removed from the daily lives of GW students, the issue affects the D.C. community as well. Miller said there are sex slaves working massage parlors, at residential home brothels and on street corners of the District.
Graduate student Skye Wallace worked as a high school teacher in the Peace Corps in Romania, where she witnessed the effects of human trafficking.
“You had to take care that the girls don’t fall prey,” Wallace said. “I’m glad the government is getting involved by appointing ambassadors for these issues.”
President of CRF Krista Auchenbach said she hoped the lecture would “spark debate among students.”
Although Miller mentioned the fight against human trafficking is just beginning, he remains hopeful. He said, “Ultimately, what we need is a 21st century abolitionist movement.”