MARQUETTE — The third largest industry in the world is human trafficking which makes about $32 billion a year. Even though the Upper Peninsula may seem secluded and safe enough, according to officials our community and the state of Michigan are prime destinations spots for modern day slavery.

UP Health systems invited a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Advisory Board, Sheila Meshinski to give a presentation yesterday to help local health care providers know more about human trafficking.

Clinical Educator for Family Birthing for U.P. Health Systems, Erika Osier says, “Women and children are the most vulnerable population, and it’s important that health care providers know how to identify how patients are being trafficked by someone or a group.”

The more publicized side of human trafficking is sex trafficking, but there’s even more to it than that.

“Human trafficking can be divided into two parts: sex trafficking and labor trafficking,” Meshinski added, “the labor trafficking is about 50-50 in our state and a lot of the labor trafficking cases are not reported.”

Meshinski says another misconception people may have is confusing trafficking with smuggling – so the first step in awareness for health care providers is to know what trafficking is and how to identify the warning signs.

Human traffickers scout out different venues to target their victims including after school programs, libraries, shopping centers, on the streets, in the clubs and even online through social media.

“Social media is a big aspect for human trafficking,” Meshinski says, “They can connect with you on Craigslist, Backpage, and say let’s meet at the Burger King, let’s meet over here, let’s meet at the mall, so what happens – that show they might get involved.”

Meshinski says the best way for families to protect their teenagers, the age group most at risk, is to talk about and show what a healthy relationship is. Last year 21 bills were passed in Michigan making it one of the toughest states in the crackdown of human trafficking, and this year the House and Senate passed more than 20 bills to focus on training community law enforcement and the public, and protecting victims.

For more information and resources on reporting human trafficking click here or call 1 – 888 – 373 – 7888.