On December 21, 2016 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) presented a high-level launch of the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. This report is published every two years and offers good data on the trends of the activity and results of increasing efforts to combat these crimes against humanity.
The most troubling development since the last Global Report in 2014 is the increase in movement of migrants and refugees and that within these very vulnerable populations, smugglers and traffickers can more readily exploit men, women and children.
There are positive changes. The adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in September, 2015, include a call to end trafficking and violence against children, elimination of violence and exploitation of girls and women, and calls for measures to end of all human trafficking. Another important development is the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which produced the New York Declaration. Nineteen commitments were adopted by countries in the Declaration and three are dedicated to concrete action against the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
This executive summary of this report highlights the following points:
No country is immune – Affluent countries in Western and Southern Europe, North America and the Middle East have detected more than 137 different citizenships of trafficking victims. Sixty nine countries have reported victims originating from Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly detected in Africa, the Middle East and Western and Southern Europe, Records exist showing proof of flows between Africa and Southeast Asia and the Americas.
The profile of trafficked persons has changed – Although women and children still make up the majority of trafficking victims, the number of men being trafficked has increased. In 2014, 28% of victims were children, 21% (17% 2011) were men. In 2014, four in ten victims were used for forced labor and 63% of this group were men. There is also an increase in domestic trafficking, done within the victims own country. 42% of all detected trafficking victims remain with their domestic borders.
Victims and traffickers often share similar backgrounds – Common language, culture or ethnicity contribute to the trust placed in traffickers by their victims. While most traffickers are men, women have become bigger players in these roles, often being trusted by the vulnerable women and children they exploit. These women are being increasingly, successfully prosecuted, especially within their own countries, for domestic trafficking. Family members can also be enticed to profit from trafficking those vulnerable relatives entrusted to their care.
People are trafficked for many purposes – While sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most prominently forms, victims can also be exploited in many other ways such as being used as beggars, child soldiers, for forced or sham marriages, benefit fraud, production of pornography or for organ removal.
Cross-border traffic patterns often mimic migration paths – Country-level data on detected trafficking victims and recently arrived regular migrants reveals that trafficking in persons and regular migration flows broadly resemble each other for some destination countries in different parts of the world.
Conflict increases likelihood of trafficking – When people find themselves in areas of conflict, the need for quick decisions often leads to poor migration decisions, often placing themselves in the hands of traffickers falsely offering help. Armed groups typically operate in these regions, relatively unhindered with no enforced rule of law. Women and girls tend to be trafficked for marriages and sexual slavery, men and boys are typically exploited in forced labor in the mining sector, as porters, soldiers and slaves.
Children continue as most vulnerable targets – After a seven year increase, the level of detected child victims has fallen to the lower levels last seen in 2009. Despite this, still more than a quarter of the detected trafficking victims in 2014 were children. A majority of these are from Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. Several reasons appear to be contributing influences: demographics, socioeconomic factors, legislative differences and countries’ institutional frameworks and priorities. There appears to be a relation between a country’s level of development and the age of detected trafficking victims. In the least developed countries, children often comprise large percentages of the detected victims.
There are striking regional differences as to the sex of detected child victims. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa detect more boys than girls, which seems to be related with the large proportion of trafficking for forced labor, child soldiers (in conflict areas) and forced begging reported in that region. In Central America, the Caribbean and South America, girls make up a large share of the detected victims, which may be contributing to the statistics that indicate trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most frequently detected form there.
Criminalization has increased but convictions remain low – the average number of convictions remains low. UNODC’s findings show that there is a close correlation between the length of time the trafficking law has been on the statute books and the conviction rate. The number of countries with a statute that criminalizes most forms of trafficking in persons as defined by the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol has increased from 33 in 2003 (18 per cent) to 158 in 2016 (88 per cent). This rapid progress means more protection and assistance for victims and more criminal convictions and imprisonment for traffickers. However, most national legislation has been only recently introduced, during the last eight to 10 years. Consequently, the average number of convictions remains low. Countries that had legislation prior to 2008 are showing higher conviction rates. Those countries with legislation passed from 2008-2014 are still woefully low. The longer countries have had comprehensive legislation in place, the more convictions are recorded, indicating it takes time and dedicated resources for a national criminal justice system to acquire sufficient expertise to detect, investigate and successfully prosecute cases of trafficking.
Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director , UN Office on Drugs and Crime summarizes by saying “We must, however, continue to generate much needed cooperation and collaboration at the international level, and the necessary law enforcement skills at the national and regional levels to detect, investigate and successfully prosecute cases of trafficking in persons. The 2016 report has done a fine job of setting out the situation, but there is more to be done.”
The complete report is available by clicking the image below: