Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DNA Testing Helps Combat Human Trafficking

DNA testing is one of the latest methods used to combat the global slave trade of human trafficking. The United States Department of Justice estimates there are nearly 27 million slaves worldwide, 300,000 slaves in the United States and over 13,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year. Texas has more cases of human trafficking than any other state each year.

Women and children make up 70% of the individuals trafficked into sexual slavery and forced labor. Often children are trafficked when they have been displaced and separated from their families due to natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti. In addition, if these children escape traffickers, are discarded due to disease or rescued by police and non-profits, they are left orphaned with no recollection of where they came from.

This is where DNA testing comes in. The Human Identification Center (HIC) at the University of North Texas has partnered with the non-profit organization DNA Pro-Kids, the University of Granada’s Genetic Identification Laboratory in Spain and the Indonesia’s Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology identify displaced children and victims of human trafficking so they can be reunited with family.

Most recently, the HIC at the University of North Texas helped DNA Pro-Kids reunite 13 Hatian children with their families in Haiti. By positively identifying DNA matches and reuniting them with their families, these children were protected from the very real threat of human traffickers.

Other cases in the United States and Indonesia have helped reunite freed child slaves with their parents in far away villages. Parents are able to provide DNA samples of missing children which are then catalogued in the database and can be used to search and reunite families.

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