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Senator Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Hearing on Ending Modern Slavery

WASHINGTON, DC –  U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled “Ending Modern Slavery: What is the Best Way Forward?”

“I want to thank the Chairman for calling this hearing. Human trafficking, in the form of sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced marriage, debt-bondage, and the sale and exploitation of children – is one of the great moral challenges of our time.

“The numbers are staggering: As we speak, there are 50 million refugees and displaced people in the world – the largest number since World War II. All are at risk of exploitation, and some will fall victim to human trafficking. This is not a new phenomenon, but there are new, more sinister factors exacerbating it – with the growth of transnational organized crime, the rise of brutal nihilistic groups like ISIL and Boko Haram, and sectarian violence forcing millions to flee their homes.

“The International Labor Organization estimates that there are at least 21 million victims of human trafficking in the world – over five million of them are children. It is estimated that forced labor alone generates 150-plus-billion-dollars in profits annually, making it the second largest income source for international criminals next to the drug trade – making it obscenely lucrative for unscrupulous labor brokers to induce people to cross borders thinking they are going for legal work – only to trap them in labor or sexual exploitation.

“NGO’s and civil society have been doing what they can to combat human trafficking, and business and governments can do more to help. Governments can muster more political will, companies can clean up their supply chains and make that information public, and the public can be more aware of who picks the fruit on their breakfast cereal in the morning – who slaved in a sweatshop to sew the shirt on their back.

“This hearing helps raise that awareness. With that, I thank the Chairman for calling it, and look forward to working with him in the coming months on a bipartisan approach to ending every form of human trafficking around the world.”