For 2022, the Blue Heart Campaign and its partners are once again joining forces for World Day against Trafficking in Persons in the weeks leading up to and on 30 July 2022.
These past two years, due to the COVID-19 crisis, have undeniably influenced the nature of human trafficking and the number of victims. UNODC’s 2021 Report on the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Trafficking in Persons and Responses to the Challenges shows that traffickers took advantage of the global crisis, capitalising on peoples’ loss of income and the increased amount of time both adults and children were spending online. It is, therefore, paramount to increase our efforts to prevent and tackle this increasingly complex and hidden crime.
In addition to this, crises in the last nine months have increased vulnerabilities of persons who may become victims of trafficking for sexual and labour purposes. Victims from Ukraine and Afghanistan are particularly at risk of trafficking due to the catastrophic situation of their countries of origin.
This year, Belgium is shining a light on a group of people who have been pushed into the shadows for too long.
Human trafficking is more prevalent in Belgium than people may think. It seems to happen in the shadows, in the dark: thus, its victims remain almost invisible. Only a small number of victims exploited in Belgium receive the assistance and help they need, and most do not ever get the chance to receive support and exercise their rights.
To create awareness on human trafficking and the Blue Heart symbol, this year's new campaign aims to bring victims into the spotlight. Three victims are are put into the spotlight of the Blue Heart in this campaign: a sex worker, a cleaning lady and a beggar.
These are perfect examples of how human trafficking often goes unnoticed: they are exploited in plain sight, but people around them rarely ask questions about their situation, or might not notice that they are being trafficked.
The ‘Shine the light’ campaign is an invitation to everyone to keep their eyes open for and pay attention to potential victims of human trafficking: only if everyone cares, can we hope to have a chance to stop human trafficking.
This year’s theme focuses on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and impede human trafficking.
With the global expansion in the use of technology - intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of our everyday life to online platforms - the crime of human trafficking has conquered cyberspace. The Internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims.
Crisis situations can also intensify this problem. Criminals profit from the chaos, desperation, and separation of people - particularly women and children - from support systems and family members. For people on the move, online resources can become a trap.
However, in the use of technology also lies great opportunity. Future success in eradicating human trafficking will depend on how law enforcement, the criminal justice systems and others can leverage technology in their responses, including by enhancing prosecutions through digital evidence and providing support services to survivors. Awareness-raising activities on the safe use of the internet and social media as well as cooperation with the private sector is important to support prevention and combatting of human trafficking.
Read below the statement by Maïté, survivor of trafficking in persons, on the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2022.
To kick off Belgium's campaign for the Blue Heart and World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, a launch will take place in Brussels on 25 July.
Hosted by the Belgian Ministry of Justice, the event will include speakers from UNODC, the EU, and PAG-ASA, with national and local stakeholders from across Belgium as well as recognised, specialised shelters Sürya and Payoke.
On the day itself, over 30 cities in Belgium are participating in the campaign..
Twenty cities, such as Brussels (Grand-Place and Egmont Palace), Antwerp, Bruges, Kortrijk and Tournai, as well as the European Parliament will illuminate buildings and monuments in blue to show their support for the Blue Heart Campaign.
Additionally, PAG-ASA and Sürya will organise stands in Brussels, Leuven, Liège, and Nivelles to raise awareness on the work of the Blue Heart Campaign and the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.