The global economic crisis may be driving more people into forced labor and other forms of modern-day slavery, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
Harder economic conditions have had a "driving effect" as labor recruiters exploit the poor with false promises of better jobs, said Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. ambassador for human trafficking issues.
Migrants are taking more risks and are willing to pay recruiters more and travel farther distances because of "increased desperation after the crash," he said.
Victims are often promised higher-paying jobs, only to find themselves deep in debt and virtual slaves working for little money in jobs such as domestic helpers or prostitutes.
"Though (human traffickers) deal in misery, what they're pitching is hope: hope for a better life, hope for a better opportunity," CdeBaca told reporters in Hong Kong.
He said many countries are enhancing their investigative abilities to fight human trafficking. In Asia, he suggested there was a growing focus on the problem and willingness to work with other regions, pointing to a recent report by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In mainland China, forced labor _ especially involving children _ remains a major problem, according to a recent report by the U.S. State Department. Woman have also been forced into sexual slavery and sold as brides, the report says.
China's government does not fully meet international standards for fighting human trafficking, though it is making "significant efforts" to comply, the reports says. Chinese laws, for example, define trafficking in a limited way that doesn't automatically prohibit some forced labor or deem certain minors coerced into sex work to be victims.