This issue of human trafficking erupted into the public conscience at the start of the twenty-first century, nevertheless, it is not a new phenomenon, in fact, it has been a global concern since the mid-nineteenth century. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, however, despite freedom from slavery being defined in numerous international conventions and legal systems of many countries, including The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocols 2000, and Slavery Convention 1926, millions of people are still subjected to slavery in many forms today.
The actual number of total victims is unknown. There are an estimated 20.9 million people trapped in some form of slavery today. (endslaverynow.org). Human trafficking takes many forms – domestic servitude, sex trafficking, forced labour, bonded labour, child labour and forced marriage. Over the last decade, the profile of detected trafficking victims has altered. Although most detected victims are still women, children and men now make up a larger share of the total number of victims than previously. However, women and girls are still affected disproportionately more than men. 79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children (UNODC 2016). Trafficking is now considered one of the major evils that haunts the globe and is the second largest source of income for organised crime groups after drugs (Belser 2005). Victims can be bought and sold several times making it highly profitable. Essentially, it seems no country can escape this sinister trade, and trafficking in some way or form touches every nation, either serving as a source, transit, and destination countries.
The UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016 states that “Conflicts create favourable conditions for trafficking in persons, but not only by generating a mass of vulnerable people escaping violence. Armed groups engage in trafficking in the territories in which they operate, and they have recruited thousands of children for the purpose of using them as combatants in various past and current conflicts. While women and girls tend to be trafficked for marriages and sexual slavery, men and boys are typically exploited in forced labour in the mining sector, as porters, soldiers and slaves”.
Criminal gangs take advantage of the migration crisis, forcing more people into different forms of slavery. At the United Nations in New York, a Declaration on Refugees and Migrants was agreed to by all 193 UN Member States in September 2016. The New York Declaration is a political document setting forth the states’ commitments to launch a process of intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of two global compacts, one for refugees and the other, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Of the nineteen commitments adopted by countries in the Declaration, three are dedicated to concrete action against the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
You can read a blog by SI UN Representative Barbara Rochman here
UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016 here
The United Nations observes World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July every year. For more information please click here.