Human trafficking: ‘Full attack’ on rights, security and dignity, says UN chief

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“Tragically, it is also a problem that is getting worse – especially for women and girls, who account for the majority of detected human trafficking worldwide.”

Divorced and vulnerable

Conflict, forced displacement, climate change, inequality and poverty have left tens of millions of people around the world destitute, isolated and vulnerable.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has generally separated children and young people from their friends and peers, forcing them to spend more time alone and online.

“People smugglers take advantage of these vulnerabilities and use advanced technology to identify, track, monitor and exploit victims,” explains the UN chief.

IOM Port of Spain

Venezuelan migrant Manuela Molina (not her real name) was promised a decent job in Trinidad, but minutes after her arrival, she was forced into a van and taken to an undisclosed location.

Trade in cyberspace

Often using the so-called “dark web”, online platforms allow criminals to recruit people with false promises.

And technology anonymously enables dangerous and degrading content that fuels human traffickingincluding sexual exploitation of children.

This year’s theme – Use and Abuse of Technology – reminds everyone that while it can make human trafficking possible, technology can also be a crucial tool in combating it.

To combine forces

The Secretary-General underlined the need for governments, businesses and civil society to invest in policies, laws and technology-based solutions that can identify and support victims, detect and punish perpetrators and ensure a safe, open and secure internet.

“As part of the 2023 Summit of the Future, I proposed a Global Digital Compact to unite the world with the need to bring good governance to the digital space,” he said, calling on everyone to “raise this issue.” and action it deserves and works to end the scourge of human trafficking once and for all.”

Technical hazards

In her daily message, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Waly, spoke more about the theme.

Recognizing that digital technology has been “a vital lifeline” during pandemic restrictions, she warned that they are “increasingly exploited by criminals”.

The borderless nature of information and communication technologies (ICT) allows traffickers to expand their reach and profit with even greater impunity.

More than 60 percent of known victims of human trafficking in the past 15 years have been women and girls, most of them trafficked for sexual exploitation.

And while conflicts and crises add to misery, countless others are in danger of being targeted by false promises of opportunity, jobs and a better life.

Secure online spaces

to protect people, digital spaces must be protected from criminal abuse by exploiting technologies for good.

“Partnerships with technology companies and the private sector can prevent traffickers from preying on the vulnerable and stop the spread of online content that increases the suffering of victims of trafficking,” said Ms Waly.

With the right support, law enforcement can use artificial intelligence, data mining and other tools to detect and investigate human trafficking networks.

“On this World Day Against Human Trafficking, let’s work to prevent online exploitation and promote the power of technology to better protect children, women and men and support victims,” ​​she concluded.

Human trafficking in conflict

A group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts underlined that the international community must “strengthen prevention and accountability for human trafficking in conflict situations”.

Women and girls, especially displaced persons, are disproportionately affected by human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced and child marriage, forced labor and domestic servitude.

“These risks of exploitation, which arise in times of crisis, are not new. They are linked to and arise from existing, structural inequalities, often based on intersectional identities, gender-based discrimination and violence, racism, poverty and weaknesses in child protection systems,” the experts said.

Structural inequalities

Refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons and stateless persons are at particular risk of attacks and kidnappings leading to human trafficking.

And the dangers are compounded by persistent restrictions on protection and aid, limited resettlement and family reunification, inadequate employment guarantees and restrictive migration policies.

“Such structural inequalities are exacerbated in the pre-, during and post-conflict periods and disproportionately affect children,” she added.

Target Schools

Despite links between armed groups’ activities and trafficking in human beings, particularly those targeting children, accountability remains “low and prevention is weak,” UN experts said.

Child trafficking — often targeting schools — has been “linked to the serious abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict, including recruitment and use, kidnapping and sexual assault,” they said.

“Sexual violence against children persists and often leads to human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and forced marriage, as well as forced labor and domestic servitude”.



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