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Former slave laborer Pan Zhifeng shows injuries he says were incurred at a brick kiln in the Shanxi Province of China. - 


Doug Krizner: Human trafficking happens all over the world. In the U.S., the Justice Department estimates at least 17,000 people are brought here each year and forced to work as slaves. Other groups say the number is higher.

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. More from Marketplace's Janet Babin at North Carolina Public Radio.

Janet Babin: Human trafficking is the modern-day equivalent of the slave trade, and it's the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. The United Nations estimates that the trade's worth some $32 billion in both "sales" of people and the value of their exploited labor.

Jolene Smith is executive director of Free the Slaves:

Jolene Smith: Our research shows that there are at least 27 million people in slavery around the world today. And that's real slavery -- people held against their will, under violence or threat of violence, and paid nothing.

Most slaves brought to the U.S. end up as laborers, prostitutes or domestic servants.

Organizers want this day of awareness to highlight the signs of slavery. If a person seems unable to leave their place of employment, or shows signs of physical abuse, it should be reported.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.