The number of victims of trafficking in persons are less identified now for the first time in the last 20 years even as COVID-19 pandemic and other crises are increasing vulnerabilities to exploitation, according to the latest Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
The report launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that the number of victims detected globally fell by 11 per cent in 2020 from the previous year, driven by fewer detections in low- and medium-income countries.
THE REDUCTION IN NUMBERS
- 59% reduction in East Asia and the Pacific
- 40% reduction in North Africa and the Middle East
- 36% reduction in Central America and the Caribbean
- 32% reduction in South America
- 12% reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa
Meanwhile, UNODC Executive Director Ghada Walysaid, “this latest report shows how the pandemic has increased vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons, further undercutting capacities to rescue victims and bring criminals to justice,” said “We cannot allow crises to compound exploitation. The UN and the donor community need to support national authorities, most of all in developing countries, to respond to trafficking threats, and to identify and protect victims especially in states of emergency.”
The seventh UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons covers 141 countries and provides an overview of patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at global, regional and national levels, based on trafficking cases detected between 2017 and 2021.
TRAFFICKING FOR SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
The report also points out reporting of fewer cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation during the pandemic as public spaces were closed and related restrictions might have pushed this form of trafficking into more concealed and less safe locations, making it harder to identify victims.
It said that many identified victims of sexual exploitation are exploited in public venues such as bars and clubs or outdoors.
SELF-RESCUE AS ANTI-TRAFFICKING RESPONSES FALL SHORT
The report said that most of the victims managed to escape and reach out to the authorities on their own initiative. It also said that fewer cases are initiated by the law enforcement officials, members of the community and civil society.
The report found
- 41% Initial action by victim
- 28% Initial action by law enforcement institutions (police, border guards etc)
- 11 % initial action by community/strangers
- 10 % initial action by victim’s family
- 9% Initial action by other institutions or civil society
CONVICTIONS AND COURT CASES
Globally, the number of convictions for trafficking offences also fell by 27 per cent in 2020 from the previous year – with sharper decreases registered in South Asia (56 per cent), Central America and the Caribbean (54 per cent) and South America (46 per cent) – accelerating a longer-term trend registered by UNODC since 2017, the UNODC said.
WAR AND CONFLICT
The report also details how war and conflict offer opportunities for traffickers to exploit. It shows that the war in Ukraine is elevating trafficking risks for the displaced population. Most victims resulting from conflicts originate in and are trafficked to countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Breaking down trafficking in persons statistics by region, the report shows higher levels of impunity in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Countries in these regions convict fewer traffickers and detect fewer victims than the rest of the world. At the same time, victims from these regions are identified in a wider range of destination countries than victims from other regions.
CLIMATE CHANGE MULTIPLYING TRAFFICKING RISKS
In the report, the UNODC says that 23.7 million people were initially displaced by weather induced natural disasters in 2021.
MORE MALE VICTIMS
The 2022 Global Report on Trafficking said that men and boys have been detected in great numbers over the past decade. With respect to women, the report said that female victims are subject to physical or extreme violence at hands of traffickers at a rate three times higher than males, and children are subjected almost twice as often as adults.
At the same time, women investigated for trafficking in persons are also significantly more likely to be convicted than men. This suggests that the justice system may discriminate against women, and/or that the role of women in trafficking networks may increase the likelihood that they are convicted for the crime.