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New UN Report Reveals Impact Of COVID On Human Trafficking


A new
study
released on Thursday by the UN
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) illustrates the
devastating impact of COVID-19 on victims and survivors of
human
trafficking
and highlights the
increased targeting and exploitation of children during the
course of the pandemic.

The study further
assesses how frontline organizations responded to the
challenges posed and continued to deliver essential
services, despite restrictions across and within national
borders.

Online prey

Meanwhile, traffickers
took advantage of the global crisis, capitalizing on
peoples’ loss of income and the increased amount of time
both adults and children were spending online.

“The
pandemic has increased vulnerabilities to trafficking in
persons while making trafficking even harder to detect and
leaving victims struggling to obtain help and access to
justice,” said UNODC Executive Director,
Ghada Waly.

“This study is an important new resource
for policy-makers and criminal justice practitioners, as it
examines successful strategies to investigate and prosecute
human trafficking in times of crisis. It also provides
recommendations on supporting frontline responders and
victims and building resilience to future
crises.”

The report shows that measures to curb the
spread of the virus increased the risk of trafficking for
people in vulnerable situations, exposed victims to further
exploitation and limited access to essential services for
survivors of this crime.

“Traffickers prey on
vulnerabilities and often lure their victims with fake
promises of employment,” explains Ilias Chatzis, Chief of
UNODC’s Human
Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section,
which
developed the new study.

Job loss

“The
pandemic has led to major job losses in many sectors and
this creates opportunities for criminal networks to take
advantage of desperate people,” he adds.

The study
found that children are being increasingly targeted by
traffickers who are using social media and other online
platforms to recruit new victims and profiting from the
increased demand for child sexual exploitation
materials.

“Experts who contributed to our study
reported on their concerns about an increase in child
trafficking. Children are being trafficked for sexual
exploitation, forced marriage, forced begging and for forced
criminality,” says Mr. Chatzis.

No
escape

Due to lockdowns and limitations on
anti-trafficking services, victims had even less chance of
escaping from their traffickers.

With borders closed,
many rescued trafficking victims have been forced to remain
for months in shelters in the countries where they had been
exploited instead of returning home.

Essential
services that provide the support and protection victims
rely on were reduced or even halted.

“When rescued
victims are recovering from their ordeal, they often need
regular assistance as part of the rehabilitation and
reintegration process. This could be healthcare,
counselling, legal aid or access to education and employment
opportunities,” says UNODC’s Ilias Chatzis.

“In
many cases this just stopped, putting survivors of
trafficking at risk of being re-traumatized or even
re-trafficked, especially those who had lost their jobs and
were suddenly unemployed and destitute,” he
adds.

Although many parts of the world came to a
standstill, the COVID pandemic did not slow down human
trafficking.

‘Crime thrives’

“Crime
thrives in times of crisis, and traffickers adapted quickly
to the ‘new normal’. They responded to the closure of
bars, clubs and massage parlours, where exploitation can
occur, by simply moving their illegal business to private
properties or online,” he adds.

In some countries,
police officers from specialized anti-trafficking units were
reassigned from their regular duties to control national
efforts to curb the spread of COVID, providing the
traffickers with an opportunity to operate with less risk of
being detected.

“The pandemic has taught us that we
need to develop strategies on how to continue anti-human
trafficking activities on a national and international level
even during a crisis. We hope that the findings of our study
and its recommendations will contribute to this,” said Mr.
Chatzis.

© Scoop Media

 



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