WE EXPLAIN | Eight facts about human trafficking in the 21st century

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Traffickers can be anyone, from members of an organized crime group to close relatives of the victim. WE EXPLAIN | Eight facts about human trafficking in the 21st century Peace and Security

Despite widespread efforts to combat human trafficking, it remains a global problem affecting millions of people. 

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has prepared eight key facts about human trafficking in the 21st century that will help better understand the background of this criminal activity, its connection to migration, climate change and conflict, and how victims are recruited and exploited.

1. Human trafficking occurs in all regions of the world 

Human trafficking occurs everywhere, but people are primarily trafficked from low-income countries to higher-income countries.& ;nbsp; 

The majority of victims, or 60 percent, are found within the country of origin, while victims of cross-border trafficking are mostly found in the same region (18 percent) or in nearby countries (6 percent). Only 16 end up very far from their place of origin. 

The majority of victims of cross-border human trafficking are from Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, as well as from South Africa. and East Asia. 

2. Human trafficking is a widespread crime and a lucrative business

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or obtaining of persons by force or deception for the purpose of exploiting them for profit.& ;nbsp;

The true scale of the crime is difficult to establish. UNODC received nearly 50,000 complaints from 141 countries in 2020, but up to 50 million people worldwide—equivalent to the population of South Korea or Uganda—may be subject to various forms of exploitation.

The scale of human trafficking is growing rapidly, as this activity is a highly profitable business, bringing in about 150 billion dollars in profits annually.  

3. Human trafficking thrives due to poverty, conflict and climate change 

Trafficking in persons is driven by a complex interaction of social, economic and political factors. 

Conflict and persecution, poverty and political instability, lack of access to education and jobs, migration and forced displacement, gender inequality and discrimination, natural disasters and climate change all create conditions conducive to human trafficking.  

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With nearly half the world’s population living on less than $6.85 per person per day, and at least three billion people live in areas severely affected by climate change and environmental degradation, leaving millions of people vulnerable to exploitation. 

Human traffickers profit from desperation, inequality and scarcity resources, targeting vulnerable, marginalized or disadvantaged people, including undocumented and smuggled migrants and those in urgent need of work. 

4. Traffickers use everything from deception to violence to recruit and exploit their victims 

Because human trafficking is often not reported to law enforcement and is not effectively prosecuted, it is a crime characterized by high rewards and low risks for perpetrators. Thus, they receive significant profits without fear of punishment. 

Taking advantage of the high demand for cheap labor, sexual or other services, criminals take advantage of shortcomings in legislation and its compliance, as well as corruption and weak authorities to carry out their illegal activities. 

They deceive victims, promise them a better life in a new country, offer them interesting jobs with greater benefits or use direct violence against vulnerable people to force them into practices such as sexual exploitation or forced labor.  

5. Avoiding exploitation can be extremely difficult 

Victims often endure inhumane conditions and find it difficult to escape the hands of their exploiters, who use a range of mechanisms and manipulations to control them. 

Victims may be beaten, threatened, and blackmailed. They sometimes have nowhere else to go. Their passports and other documents may be confiscated. Many may not even consider themselves victims, which often happens when they are being manipulated by a partner or relative. 

Fear of reprisal often keeps victims from seeking help, and they are more likely to rescue themselves rather than with the help of authorities. While 41 percent of victims contact authorities, only 28 percent of cases involve police actively investigating. 

6. The most common forms of human trafficking are sexual exploitation and forced labor 

Human trafficking comes in many forms. Recent UNODC research shows that 38.7 percent of victims are victims of sexual exploitation, which occurs on the streets, in brothels, massage centers, hotels and bars. There, victims, mostly women and girls, are often subjected to violence and abuse. 

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Another 38.8 percent face forced labor exploitation. Some people work long hours in factories for little or no pay to make clothes, computers, or phones. Others work in fields, plantations or fishing boats – often in harsh weather – growing corn, rice or wheat, harvesting coffee and cocoa beans, or catching fish and seafood. 

About 10 percent are forced into illegal activities such as pickpocketing, begging, or selling drugs. 

Other forms of exploitation include forced marriage, confiscation organs and domestic slavery. 

7. Women are the most frequently identified victims of human trafficking 

No one is immune from human trafficking. People of all genders, ages, backgrounds and in all regions of the world become victims of criminals.  

Women and girls make up the majority of victims, at 42 percent and 18 percent respectively. They are primarily trafficked for sexual exploitation and are three times more likely to be subjected to extreme violence than men and boys. 

At the same time, the number of identified male victims has increased in recent years: 23 percent are men and 17 percent are boys. They are mainly used for forced labor. 

The proportion of children among identified victims of human trafficking has tripled to 35 percent over the past 15 years. 

8. Traffickers can be anyone, from members of an organized crime group to close relatives of the victim

UNODC data shows that 58 percent of those convicted of human trafficking are men. However, women are more likely to be involved in this criminal activity than in other types of crime, accounting for 40 percent of those convicted. 

Human trafficking is carried out by organized criminal groups and by individuals acting alone or in small groups.  

In addition to human trafficking, criminal organizations are often involved in other serious crimes, including drug or arms trafficking, as well as corruption and bribery of public officials. Such groups exploit larger numbers of victims, often for longer periods of time, transporting them further and using more violence than unorganized criminals. 

However, traffickers can also be family members of the victim, parents, intimate partners or acquaintances.


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