16 April 2012 - Portugal is the latest European country to join the Blue Heart Campaign against Human Trafficking. At any given time, an estimated 140,000 victims of human trafficking are trapped in a vicious cycle of violence, abuse and degradation across Europe. UNODC research shows that victims are often duped by a recruiter who is a relative, a supposed friend or someone they trust.
One-third of victims (32 per cent) come from the Balkans, 19 per cent from the former Soviet Union, 13 per cent from South America, 7 per cent from Central Europe, 5 per cent from Africa and 3 per cent from East Asia. Victims from South America tend to be concentrated in several European countries, including Portugal. Because of its geographic location, Portugal is both a destination and transit country for victims of human trafficking.
The Blue Heart Campaign was launched in Portugal by Ms. Teresa Morais, Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Equality, Mr. Manuel Albano, Portuguese National Rapporteur for Human Trafficking, and Mr. Pierre Lapaque, Chief of the UNODC Organized Crime Unit. The campaign aims to raise awareness about human trafficking among decision makers, civil society, the media and the general public in order to garner support for combating this crime.
"I hope to see this Blue Heart symbolizing active solidarity with victims around the world spreading ever wider" said Ms. Morais. "Launching the Blue Heart Campaign in Portugal is part of our national plan to combat human trafficking - being a global campaign, it allows us to extend the reach of our prevention work" added Mr. Albano.
Human trafficking is a serious form of organized crime that affects all countries. "In Europe, one person is trafficked every eight minutes for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Trafficking in persons is one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in Europe", said Mr. Lapaque. Criminal groups are estimated to earn around €2.5 billion annually through the sexual exploitation of victims. Prosecutions, however, still remain relatively low compared to the number of victims.
According to UNODC, sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (79 per cent). However, this may be due to the fact that this crime tends to be more visible and more frequently reported. In comparison, almost one-fifth (18 per cent) of human trafficking is for forced labour, which is likely to be under-reported, as victims often work in hidden locations.
"We must be extra vigilant and prevent vulnerable people from falling prey to criminals. We must invest in appropriate support mechanisms for victims and provide an effective law enforcement response to punish those who exploit others", said Mr. Lapaque. UNODC works closely with Governments, international organizations and civil society to counter organized crime.