2023 Update: Pandemic Worsens Human Trafficking Crisis, Detection Declines

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) highlighted a concerning decline in the identification of human trafficking victims amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises. The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons revealed an 11% decrease in detected victims in 2020 compared to the previous year, driven by fewer detections in low and medium-income countries. The pandemic has not only reduced trafficking opportunities but also hindered law enforcement’s capacity to identify victims.

UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly emphasized the need for the UN and donor community to support national authorities, particularly in developing countries, to counter trafficking threats and protect victims. The report also noted a shift in trafficking for sexual exploitation patterns, with fewer cases detected during the pandemic due to public space closures pushing the crime into more concealed and unsafe locations.

Convictions for trafficking offenses dropped by 27% globally in 2020, with more significant decreases in South Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. The report underscored the alarming fact that most trafficking victims escape and report their situation on their own, rather than being identified by law enforcement or community members.

Additionally, the report highlighted the exploitation opportunities provided by war and conflict, with the war in Ukraine elevating trafficking risks for displaced populations. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia showed higher impunity levels, with fewer traffickers convicted and victims detected than in other regions. The concerning findings call for urgent attention and support from the international community to address the growing issue of human trafficking.

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