Florida National University recently hosted its fourth annual human trafficking walk, which school officials say creates awareness in the community.
Hundreds of students participated in a walk presented by Florida National University according to community relations director Rachel Tourgeman. The march occurred on Jan. 31 at 10 a.m. outside the institution located at 4425 W. 20th Ave in Hialeah.
According to a press release related to the march, human trafficking is a $150 billion business and affects 127 countries worldwide.
Tourgeman said that the objective of the walk is to get teenagers and university students to be more educated about human trafficking and what options they might have if they stumble upon this dangerous situation.
“Sadly, the state of Florida is the third highest state in the entire nation with the highest human trafficking rates,” she said.
Half of all Florida trafficking victims are under the age of 18 and more than 20 million men, women and children around the world are victims of human trafficking, according to the Florida Health Department.
University President María Cristina Rigueiro said that some victims are not only used for sex but to sell their organs as well.
“Human traffickers have different strategies to catch their victims, one of them is by offering their victims great job opportunity but in reality, they are used for trafficking and we have to do something about it,” she said.
The event was co-sponsored by many organizations and cities including Hialeah, Coral Gables and Miami.
Hialeah Councilman Carl Zogby said they support the event because it’s important for their community to be vigilant and aware about human trafficking.
“This event educates and informs the young and the old community of what they can do to be mindful and not be a victim of human trafficking,” he said.
María Mercedes Becerra, president of the foundation ”Entre Nosotras,”known in English as “Between Us,” said that the goal of her foundation is to end human trafficking and domestic violence.
“Girls in Miami-Dade County are being abducted from a very young age and these are girls that we never see again so it’s essential that parents educate themselves as well about this problem.”
In 2017, there were 604 cases reported in Florida of human trafficking and in 2018 that number decreased by nearly 60 percent, according to the human trafficking hotline webpage.