More than one million people, the majority of them women and children, are smuggled across international borders to work in near slavery every year, the US state department says.
Its 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report lists more than 170 countries which it claims are not doing enough to tackle the problem.
Al Jazeera met “Svetlana”, a Ukrainian forced to work in the sex trade in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
She recounted how she was offered a job as a waitress, but the woman who had originally promised to help her in Tashkent took away her passport and threatened to harm her family if she did not co-operate.
After years of abuse, “Svetlana” has found refuge at the United Arab Emirates’ first shelter for the victims of human trafficking.
Staff at the Abu Dhabi Shelter for Women and Children say that although her story is common, there is too little awareness of the situation.