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Campaign against human trafficking held against Olympic backdrop

As crowds throng London for the Olympics, passers-by are lured to enter huge boxes, only to be confronted with the horrors of human trafficking. The installations aim at raising awareness about a crime that – according to ILO figures – has claimed more than 20 million victims.

Article | 27 July 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – Visitors thronging London for the Olympics might come across huge, brightly coloured gift boxes that promise passers-by a better life, only to reveal the harsh realities of human trafficking on the inside.

The art installations are part of the Gift Box campaign that aims to raise awareness about human trafficking, a crime which affects every country in the world in one way or another.

On the outside, the boxes are brightly coloured and full of promises such as “Earn more money and support your family”. The inside is black and white and displays the faces of victims and their stories, as well as information about human trafficking.

Every minute, of every hour, of every day, men, women and children are forced to travel around the world to make gold for someone else: they have been trafficked.”
As thousands of athletes travelled to the UK to vie for gold, “every minute, of every hour, of every day, men, women and children are forced to travel around the world to make gold for someone else: they have been trafficked,” Gift Box says on its website.

“It is our responsibly to take this opportunity to alert the world to the reality of this tragic crime; to inspire visitors gathered in this city for the Games of the 30th Olympiad - residents from thousands of towns and cities – to become aware and take action to stop this crime.”

Three in 1,000 in forced labour

Nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labour across the world, trapped in jobs which they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave, according to the ILO 2012 global estimate of forced labour.

Most forms of human trafficking can also be regarded as forced labour, and so the estimate captures the full realm of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation – seen by many as modern-day slavery.

The ILO estimate means that around three out of every 1,000 persons worldwide are in forced labour at any given point in time.

Ninety per cent of the victims are exploited by private individuals and enterprises, while 10 per cent are forced to work by the state, by rebel military groups or in prisons under conditions which violate fundamental ILO standards. Sexual exploitation accounts for 22 per cent of all victims and labour exploitation makes up 68 per cent of the total.

“The successful prosecution of individuals who bring such misery to so many remains inadequate – this needs to change. We must ensure that the number of victims does not rise during the current economic crisis where people are increasingly vulnerable to these abusive practices.” says Beate Andrees, who heads the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour.

The Gift Box campaign was created by the STOP THE TRAFFIK activist group and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) formed by the ILO and other UN agencies as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).


For more information, please contact Patrick Moser, ILO press officer at or tel: +41(0)22/799-6348.