Express News Service
BENGALURU: The Covid-19 pandemic has not only proved to be a health and economic disaster globally, it has also resulted in increased trafficking in persons and exacerbated existing “disadvantages, poverty and vulnerabilities,” stated a just-released study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).The report – ‘The Effects of the Pandemic on Trafficking in Persons and Responses to the Challenges – A Global Study of Emerging Evidence’ — while illustrating the devastating impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations, including migrant workers, women and children, stated that traffickers, taking advantage of the global crisis, capitalised on peoples’ loss of income and increased amount of time both adults and children were spending online.
According to UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly, the pandemic has “increased vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons, while making trafficking even harder to detect and leaving victims struggling to obtain help and access to justice.” Traffickers “preyed on vulnerabilities and often lured their victims with fake promises of employment,” explained Ilias Chatzis, chief of UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, which developed the study.
“37% of stakeholder survey respondents reported that the recruitment of victims has moved online during the pandemic,” it stated.
Women and girls have been “recruited, often locally or online, for sexual exploitation, especially in private apartments. Children have been particularly affected – out of school and needing to support parents who have lost their livelihoods. Children have been increasingly targeted by traffickers at the local level and online.
They have been trafficked for sexual purposes, forced marriage, forced begging and for forced criminality. There is clear evidence of increased demand for child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM), which has exacerbated the exploitation of children around the world,” are some of the disturbing findings of the report.
Vulnerable persons who, due to their worsened economic situation, were “recruited for labour or sexual exploitation in their local area. Women, children and migrants have been identified by survey and interviewed participants as particularly vulnerable to recruitment and exploitation during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the study stated. UNODC stated that the report is an “important new resource for policy-makers and criminal justice practitioners… to investigate and prosecute human trafficking in times of crisis”.