Human Trafficking: A Closer Look at a Growing Worldwide Problem

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," December 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Joran van der Sloot told us "On the Record" that he sold Natalee Holloway for $10,000. Now Van der Sloot says he was lying to us and made up the story.

Lie or no lie, it is a fact that human trafficking is an international crisis. Bigger numbers of people are sold for labor and sex and just plain cruelty.

Moments ago we spoke to Ambassador Mark Lagon, Secretary of State Rice's global advisor for fighting human trafficking.


VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you very much for agreeing to sit down and talk with us.


VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, I'm not going to ask you about the Natalee Holloway case. While we have been seeking to prove or disprove what happened to her, one of the things that has come to our attention is the enormity of the problem with human trafficking. And this is your job.

LAGON: It is. I head the office in the State Department to fight this problem of sex trafficking and forced labor, working with other countries.

VAN SUSTEREN: I was reading some of your materials--across borders over 800,000 people a year or more.

LAGON: If you look at trafficking within borders, it's millions, and across borders we think it's at least 800,000 people a year, many of them for sexual exploitation. We think a good 80 percent of them are females who are the victims.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this a problem that, say, in the last five years is growing or is decreasing?

LAGON: I think it is growing. But we certainly are more aware of this problem. Nations around the world are beginning to put in place laws and only starting to effectively prosecute the bad guys.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's worldwide?


VAN SUSTEREN: Our attention has been focused more on the South American and Caribbean area. You have given me this map. Tell me in this Aruba, Venezuela, Caribbean area, what has our state department determined?

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LAGON: In the Caribbean, you see a lot of transit of human trafficking victims, a lot of them for sexual exploitation. In the region of Latin America there has been increased focus on children and prostitution, but not enough of people who are adults.

And there's a problem in the region, including where there is legal prostitution, where there are being a magnet for sex trafficking.

Venezuela had for three years in a row the lowest ranking in our annual global report on its record on fighting human trafficking until last year, and then it moved up to the second lowest category of the watchlist.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any record or history of actual trafficking through Aruba?

LAGON: There is. Aruba, being small, is not ranked in our report, but there are cases. Admittedly, much of the pattern seems to be going to Aruba. But it is quite conceivable that trafficking from Aruba is possible.

VAN SUSTEREN: In Aruba, do you find that the policemen are willing to look at the problem? Are they honest, thorough, good, or does our state department have any problem with the law enforcement in Aruba?

LAGON: I am not in a position to give a really good assessment of that. But it is a region in which, in Latin America, corruption and lack of efficacy and law-enforcement is serious.

VAN SUSTEREN: We have some been dealing with the Natalee Holloway case, and you are not part of this investigation, but we have some information that we would like them to look at. But there is an unwillingness to even look at what we have. Do you find that unusual?

LAGON: Everyone should be open to the opportunity to look at evidence, because the possibility of trafficking in this region is serious.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do these women say, and I don't know if you have ever spoken to them or talked to people who have been the victim of trafficking-everyone says why don't you just walk away? I have talked to them, and I know what-but what to do here?

LAGON: The definition of human trafficking by law and under U.N. treaties involved force, fraud, and coercion.

In general prostitution, there is a lot of violence and manipulation by pimps. And in the situation of the human trafficking it is terribly acute.

Oftentimes people are kept in a brothel and cannot leave. They are living and being exploited in the same place. Their traffickers get them into debt. They make them afraid that if they run they will only be treated like a criminal.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it then that you are not dismissive of the possibility that this could have happened to Natalee Holloway?

LAGON: I'm not. The flow of human trafficking through this region is significant. Rule of law is lacking. Where there are even laws, like in Aruba, they are not well implemented. It is quite possible that this is happening on a significant scale. So you really can't reject out of hand that idea.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you.

LAGON: Pleasure.


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