The United States Department of State has stated on numerous occasions that there are an estimated 27 million people around the world who are victims of human trafficking.
Tom Ragan of the Las Vegas Review-Journal attempted to trace back the original source of this figure. When talking to the US State Department, a spokeswoman stated that she could not verify the credibility of the number.
Ragan was able to determine that the 27 million figure was originally published by Kevin Bales of the University of Hull in Brighton, England. Professor Bales describes himself as “Anti-Slavery” professor and helped found Free the Slaves, an anti-trafficking organization in Washington, DC.
The research to determine the figure was conducted in 1999 by “a half-dozen students from London’s Roehampton University who placed thousands of calls, sent out thousands of emails and visited dozens of governments in different countries, although when pressed, he could not name the countries.”
This is not the first time that the anti-human trafficking industry has been called into questions for using bad data. Previously, many organizations were stating that 100,000 to 300,000 children were falling into sex trafficking each year. When the original source was investigated, it was determined to be false.
In addition, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report stating that the manner in which human trafficking estimates are used are “questionable.”
Source: Tom Ragan, “Human-trafficking problem is difficult to measure,” Las Vegas Review Journal, May 26, 2013.