Technology helps traffickers hunt, enslave and sell their organs


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. Credit: IOM Port of Spain
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid)
  • Inter Press Service

Yes, technology now dominates most human activities and, surprisingly, it is now presented as the perfect life-saving solution for the smallest and poorest households worldwide. It has simply replaced precious human knowledge acquired over thousands of years.

And technology is now being used by the world’s greatest “warlords” to bomb unarmed civilians with drones, which also carry nuclear warheads.

Meanwhile, the internet and digital platforms are being used by criminal gangs to recruit, exploit and control the victims of their lucrative human trafficking. Among other crimes, victims of human trafficking are also targeted for ‘organ harvesting’.

No wonder the World Day Against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2022 (July 30) has focused on the use and misuse of technology as a tool that both enables and hinders human trafficking.

What is behind human trafficking?

“Conflict, forced displacement, climate change, inequality and poverty have left tens of millions of people around the world destitute, isolated and vulnerable,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said ahead of World Day.

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, Guterres said.

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

Slave markets, also in refugee camps

Obviously, given the clandestine nature of these inhumane operations – and the negligent complicity of official authorities – the number of victims is practically impossible to calculate.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of “detected” human trafficking is over 150,000. Other estimates speak of as many as a million.

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

Meanwhile, the operations of the criminal gangs have expanded everywhere, even in refugee camps.

In the article: Slave Markets Open 24/7: Refugee Babies, Boys, Girls, Women, Men…, IPS reported that, in addition to selling and buying slaves in public squares, as some time ago in ‘liberated’ Libya, a widespread exploitation of men, women and children has been taking place for years in refugee camps around the world.

One is a refugee camp in Malawi, where such inhumane practices have been reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Malawi Police.

“I even witnessed a kind of Sunday market, where people come to buy children who were then exploited in situations of forced labor and prostitution,” said Maxwell Matewere of UNODC.

The camp is also used as a hub for processing victims of human trafficking. Traffickers recruit victims in their home countries under false pretenses, arrange for them to cross the border into Malawi and enter the camp.

Many other refugee camps, such as the Za’atari camp in Jordan, which is home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees after fleeing the devastating 11-year war in their country, are also suspected of trafficking scenes. And the list goes on.

The dark web

Often using the so-called “dark web”, online platforms allow criminals to recruit people with false promises, the UN informs, adding that technology anonymously allows dangerous and degrading content that fuels human trafficking, including the sexual exploitation of children.

On this, the UNODC explains that as the world continues to transform digitally, internet technologies are increasingly being used to facilitate human trafficking.

With the emergence of new technologies, some traffickers have adapted their modus operandi for cyberspace by integrating technology and using digital platforms to advertise, recruit and exploit victims.

Recruited through social media

Every day, digital platforms are used by traffickers to advertise deceptive job openings and market exploitation services to potential paying customers, UNODC explains.

“Victims are recruited through social media, with traffickers taking advantage of publicly available personal information and the anonymity of online spaces to contact victims.”

Patterns of exploitation have been transformed by digital platforms as webcams and live streams have created new forms of exploitation and reduced the need for transport and transfer of victims.

Human trafficking in armed conflict

A group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts, known as Special Rapporteurs, recently underlined the need for the international community to “strengthen prevention and accountability for human trafficking in conflict situations”.

Women and girls, especially displaced persons, are disproportionately affected by trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced and child marriage, forced labor and domestic servitude, they warned.

“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

According to the independent human rights experts, refugees, migrants, displaced persons and stateless persons are particularly at risk from 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 the links between activities of armed groups and trafficking in human beings – particularly targeting children – accountability remains “low and prevention is weak,” UN special rapporteurs stressed.

Child trafficking — which often targets schools — is linked to the serious abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict, including recruitment and use, kidnapping and sexual violence, 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”.

organ harvest

The independent human rights experts also highlighted that in conflict situations, the trade in organ harvesting is another concern, along with the inability of law enforcement to regulate and control armed groups and the finances of other traffickers, both domestically and across borders.

“We have seen what can be achieved through concerted action and political will to prevent human trafficking in conflict situations,” said the group of special rapporteurs, which advocates international protection, family reunification and expanded resettlement and planned relocation opportunities.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to investigate and report on a specific human rights issue or the situation of a country. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.

Security services ‘seriously failing’

The UN refugee agency UNHCR warned on July 29 that protection services for refugees and migrants making dangerous journeys from the Sahel and the Horn of Africa to North Africa and Europe, including survivors of human trafficking, are “seriously lacking”.

“Some victims are left to die in the desert, others endure repeated sexual and gender-based violence, kidnappings for ransom, torture and many forms of physical and psychological abuse.”

All of the above is just another tragic testament to how big the “dark web” is of the world’s so-called decision makers.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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