Trafficking in persons is a crime that preys upon the vulnerable and persists in all parts of the world. The continuing fallout of the pandemic and the hardship stemming from it are only likely to increase the exploitation.
Women continue to be the primary targets of traffickers, accounting for 46 percent of all detected victims at the global level. More and more children are being trafficked, accounting for about one third of the victims, with girls alone comprising some 19 percent of all detected victims. The global share of detected child victims has tripled over the past 15 years. These victims are subjected to unspeakable violations. 50 percent of detected victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, while 38 percent were exploited for forced labour. Other victims are forced into marriage, begging and criminal acts, or trafficked for armed combat.
In the European Union, 72 percent of all victims, as well as 92 percent of the victims trafficked for sexual exploitation are women and girls. Nearly a quarter of the victims are children. Half of the victims identified in the European Union are non-EU citizens.
Preventing and ending this crime relies on international cooperation and comprehensive partnerships, uniting action across countries of origin, transit and destination. This would build on the agreed international framework provided by the Trafficking in Persons Protocol under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union work closely with governments around the world to prevent trafficking in persons, bring the perpetrators to justice and protect the victims.
In the EU’s immediate neighbourhood in the Mediterranean region, human tragedies linked to trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling have increased in recent years. UNODC, the EU and its Member States have partnered with national criminal justice agencies, inter-regional prosecutor networks and NGOs to strengthen cooperation, provide assistance to victims and uphold the rights of migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers, including through a major three-year project with Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to dismantle trafficking and smuggling networks.
Our joint Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants – GLO.ACT –is currently in its second phase, aiming to help Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh to tackle the root causes of this crime more effectively. Results to date include technical assistance to develop a new Afghan National Action Plan on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, the training of female police officers in Pakistan and the launch of the GLO.ACT Women’s Network.
Our cooperation is also built on the contribution of the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator and the Inter-agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT), which UNODC coordinates and which brings together 30 UN agencies and regional organisations. As laid down in the EU Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings 2021-2025, the European Commission will pursue closer cooperation with relevant actors in relation to the UN Protocol, including ICAT.
Fostering international cooperation efforts while developing national legislation and capacities works. More traffickers are being brought to justice every year. Globally, the number of people convicted per 100,000 people has nearly tripled since 2003, when the Protocol entered into force. We need to commit to sustaining and advancing this progress, even as the continuing COVID-19 crisis puts pressure on resources.
As emphasised by the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, effectively tackling trafficking requires governments to address poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunities. Working together, including with civil society and the private sector, we can address inequalities and root causes, eliminate gaps in criminal justice responses and raise awareness. Joint action will enable us to ensure the early detection, referral and protection of trafficking victims.
Our efforts must draw on insights and contributions of survivors of human trafficking. “Victims’ voices lead the way” is the theme of the 2021 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. UNODC and the EU are committed to comprehensive, multi-sectoral, age-appropriate and victim-centred approaches, and working with survivor-led organisations, who have a crucial role to play in reaching those at risk and strengthening prevention, ensuring appropriate responses and assistance to trafficking victims, and better supporting them on their road to rehabilitation.
On this day, we re-commit to working together to stamp out trafficking in persons, to protect its victims and to bring its perpetrators to justice.