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UN warns of human trafficking crimes becoming more hidden

A new UN report is warning that the Covid-19 Pandemic may have driven some forms of trafficking to more hidden locations increasing danger to victims and making it harder to detect by authorities.  

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2022, released today, says that for the first time in 20 years, there has been a reduction in the number of victims detected globally.  However, it added that there is little evidence to suggest that the threat of this crime has diminished. The UNODC said that as law enforcement and public services were under increasing strain, pandemic restrictions may have driven some forms of trafficking to more hidden locations. It said that Covid crises, conflicts and the climate emergency are escalating human trafficking risks. 

The report said there was a failure by institutions to detect and protect trafficking victims and to give them justice. It noted a 27% drop in the number of convictions in 2020 compared with the previous year, continuing a downward trend since 2017. Regionally there was a 45% drop in convictions in Western and Southern Europe, where the UK is counted in the statistics. The report stated that most victims rescue themselves instead of being proactively identified.  

The report also found that girls and women were three times more likely to suffer explicit or extreme violence during trafficking compared to boys and men, and children overall were two times more likely to be subjected to violence than adults. Sexual Exploitation and Labour Exploitation accounted for about 8 out of every 10 trafficking cases. Forced labour was mostly seen in the Agriculture and Farming sector and the Fishing industry. Together they accounted for six out of every 10 cases of trafficking. The report highlighted the UK, where it noted that 1 in 5 trafficking victims were subjected to both labour and sexual exploitation. It also said that the victims of mixed cases of both sexual exploitation and forced criminality in the UK were mainly children.  

Responding to the report Medaille’s Director of Police and Justice Partnerships Marcus Dawson said: “I strongly agree with the UNODC’s call in this report for institutions to share best practice, technology and disseminate practical information at an international level. The international nature of this crime demands a high level of international cooperation if we are going to be successful in stopping these ruthless criminals. Medaille’s annual International Criminal and Justice Conference seeks to facilitate this networking and sharing of best practice and we hope that more organisations will see the value of such forums in helping to disrupt the activities of traffickers and achieving justice for victims.” 

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