Victims of trafficking at greater risk due to COVID-19 pandemic


Identifying a victim of trafficking of persons is difficult, even under normal circumstances. Mainly due to the fact that trafficking victims are often exploited in illegal, informal or unregulated sectors like the sex industry, or in domestic settings. 

Now as the world tries to curb the COVID 19 health pandemic, there are growing fears that the shortfall of dealing with the virus is making the task of identifying victims of human trafficking even more difficult. The unprecedented measures adopted to flatten the infection curve include enforced quarantine, curfews and lockdowns, travel restrictions, and limitations on economic activities and public life.

While at first sight, these enforcement measures and increased police presence at the borders and on the streets seem to dissuade crime, they may also drive it further underground. Victims are also more exposed to contracting the virus, less equipped to prevent it, and have less access to healthcare to ensure their recovery.

In trafficking in persons, criminals are adjusting their business models to the ‘new normal’ created by the pandemic, especially through the abuse of modern communications technologies. At the same time, COVID-19 impacts the capacity of state authorities and non-governmental organizations to provide essential services to the victims of this crime.

UNODC has compiled a thematic brief that shows how the COVID19 pandemic impacts human trafficking victims:

Read the report here: Preliminary findings and messaging based on rapid stocktaking 

UNODC´s recent response to support countries during the COVID-19 crisis

In Senegal, UNODC is supporting the Government in a large-scale operation that aims to identify thousands of street children that studied in religious boarding schools. These children were often subjected to exploitation and are now at heightened risk of exploitation. UNODC will support the return to their families or placement in shelters.


More information:

UNODC warns of increased risks to human trafficking victims.

Online Edition - Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons

“Impact of the covid-19 pandemic on trafficking in persons: Preliminary findings and messaging based on rapid stocktaking