By Alfred Koroma
Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia convict fewer traffickers and detect fewer victims than the rest of the world, at the victims from the regions are identified in a wider range of destination countries than victims from other regions, latest UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons says.
The report says most victims of trafficking originate in and are trafficked to countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The report also shows how COVID19 and other crises are hindering identification of trafficking victims, saying fewer victims of trafficking in persons are being identified even as the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises increase vulnerabilities to exploitation.
According to UNODC Report, the number of victims detected fell by 11 per cent in 2020 from the previous year, driven by less detection in low and medium-income countries. And the number of convictions for trafficking offences also fell by 27 per cent in the same year, accelerating a longer-term trend registered by UNODC since 2017.
UNODC registered more decreases in South Asia (56 per cent), Central America and the Caribbean (54 per cent) and South America (46 per cent).
The pandemic, in addition to reducing opportunities for traffickers to operate, may have weakened law enforcement capacities to detect victims, UNODC report, saying fewer cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation were detected during the pandemic as public spaces were closed and related restrictions may have pushed this form of trafficking into more concealed and less safe locations, making it harder to identify victims.
“This latest report also shows how the pandemic has increased vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons, further undercutting capacities to rescue victims and bring criminals to justice,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly is quoted saying. “We cannot allow crises to compound exploitation.”
Waly called on UN and the donor community to support national authorities, particularly in developing countries, to respond to trafficking threats, and to identify and protect victims especially in states of emergency.”
Court case analysis featured in the report disclosed that trafficking victims, when they are identified, escape from traffickers on their own and are in effect ‘self-rescued’, further revealing that more cases of victims escaping and reporting to authorities of their own initiative (41 per cent) than cases where victims are located by law enforcement (28 per cent), members of the community and civil society (11 per cent).
The reports warns the situation is alarming considering many victims of trafficking may not identify themselves as victims or may be too afraid of their exploiters to attempt escaping.
Court cases examined also disclosed that female victims are subject to physical or extreme violence at hands of traffickers at a rate three times higher than males, and children are subjected to trafficking almost twice as often as adults. And women investigated for trafficking in persons are also more likely to be convicted than men, suggesting a possible discrimination against women in the justice system.
The seventh Global Report on Trafficking in Persons is based on data collected from 141 countries over the 2017-2020 periods and an analysis of 800 different court cases, UN says.