The pandemic, crisis, conflict and climate change have left more people vulnerable to trafficking – a modern form of slavery. The multiplication of meteorological disasters, displacing millions of people, is currently one of the ‘main causes’ of human trafficking, according to a UN report published on Tuesday, which also mentions the impact of the war in Ukraine.
This is one of the main conclusions of the Global Report on Trafficking 2022 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which was released this Tuesday in Vienna.
Trafficking is a crime that consists of capturing and retaining a person to exploit them sexually or for work. Although the best-known form is sexual exploitation, other victims suffer conditions of slavery in domestic tasks, and agriculture or are even forced to practice child begging or subjected to forced marriages.
The victims whose identification was reduced the most were those who suffered sexual exploitation, the most common form of trafficking and which mainly affects women and girls.
In 2020, the number of victims detected suffering from sexual exploitation was reduced by 24%, but that, the UN insists, does not mean that there are fewer cases of abuse, but rather that the confinements made many victims ‘invisible’.
The majority of trafficking victims are women and girls (60%), although the detection of male victims has increased in recent years, both men (23%) and boys (17%).
Climate become a cause of human trafficking
‘Climate change increases vulnerability to trafficking’ of people, points out this study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (ONUDC), based on data from 141 countries between 2017-2020 and the analysis of 800 court cases.
Over time, ‘entire regions will become uninhabitable,’ a consequence that ‘disproportionately affects’ the poorest communities, who live mainly from agriculture and fishing.
Without their means of subsistence, they are easy prey for traffickers, Fabrizio Sarrica, the main author of the text, explained to the press.
In 2021 alone, climatic catastrophes caused the internal displacement of more than 23.7 million people. Many others had to go abroad.
The report cites devastating typhoons in the Philippines and Bangladesh. In both countries, there was an increase in cases of human trafficking.
Ghana, where there is drought and flooding, and the Caribbean region, hit by hurricanes and rising sea levels, are also more exposed to human smuggling networks.
Another propitious terrain for this type of crime is armed conflicts. Although Africa is by far the most affected continent, the UN agency points to the potentially ‘dangerous’ situation in Ukraine.
‘It is a challenge to know how to manage the human trafficking that generates war and instability,’ Ilias Chatzis, head of UNODC’s anti-trafficking and migrant smuggling service said.
Continents most affected by climate crisis
According to research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africa and Central and South America will be the continents most affected by the climate crisis.
The report indicates that internally displaced persons due to climate change will increase in the coming decades, ‘forcing some 216 million people to emigrate within their own country’ in the year 2050, according to World Bank estimates.
The UN report analyzes data from almost 190,000 victims of trafficking detected between 2017 and 2020 around the world and denounces impunity for this crime, considered a modern form of slavery.
Trafficking is the capture and retention of a person in order to exploit them. Although sexual slavery is the best-known crime, other victims fall into forced labour or are forced to practice begging, among other crimes.
Although the UNODC does not offer global figures on the magnitude of this crime, the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that almost 28 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking.
Russia Ukraine war
The report also underscores that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is increasing cases of trafficking with Ukrainian victims who have fled their country to escape the war.
The UNODC estimates that Ukrainian victims could amount to 5% of the total number of people who fall into trafficking networks in Europe, five times more than before the start of the war in February 2022.
Another novel aspect of the report is that for the first time, it is pointed out that climate change is a risk factor for falling into trafficking since people displaced for that reason are more vulnerable to being exploited.
‘ In 2021, 23.7 million people have been internally displaced by climate-induced natural disasters,’ the report says.
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