States Must Step Up Action to End Alarming Rise in Trafficking in Children

IOM

– Despite progress during the past 20 years, trafficking in persons, particularly children, remains a high-profit, low-risk crime and a more concerted effort is needed to fight it, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG) said today.

Marking the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, António Vitorino, IOM’s Director General, and Najat Maalla M’jid, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, made the following statement:

Today, one year after the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, we commend States on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in persons. Most countries now have and are implementing laws against human trafficking. Greater efforts are being made to apprehend and prosecute traffickers, and the rights and needs of trafficked persons to adequate care and protection are widely acknowledged.

However, despite all the work that has been undertaken over the last two decades, trafficking in persons, and in particular of children, continues to be a high profit-low risk crime, based upon the principles of supply and demand. Moreover, the impact of COVID-19 has increased the number of persons that find themselves in precarious situations where they are more prone to become victims of traffickers who prey on those who are vulnerable to take advantage and exploit them.

As the Secretary-General stated in his report on trafficking in women and girls to the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly, progress in elimination of trafficking remains slow. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020 highlights that between 2017 and 2018, a total of 74,514 victims of trafficking were detected in over 110 countries. In 2018, for every 10 victims detected globally, about five were adult women and two were girls.

These figures in themselves are deeply concerning, but the reality is much grimmer, as it represents only a fraction of the real scope of trafficking around the globe.

This year we would like to highlight the specific vulnerability of children to trafficking. Child trafficking is one of the worst forms of violence against children, affecting an alarming number of children globally. About one third of the overall detected victims are children. Data from UNODC indicates that child trafficking has tripled in the past 15 years and the share of boys has increased five times.

Current research shows that migrant children are highly vulnerable to trafficking or related forms of exploitation. Data from IOM and UNICEF indicates that 8 out of 10 migrant children travelling the Central Mediterranean Route to Europe report exploitation which may amount to human trafficking. Children on this route are regularly held against their will, forced to work, or experience wage theft.

Trafficking is both a form of and a result of violence against children. Children are treated like commodities which are bought, sold, traded and used over and over again. Trafficked children face physical, psychological and sexual violence from their traffickers and abusers. They are denied the opportunities for appropriate education and development and saddled with lingering economic after-effects such as indebtedness, all of which can have severe negative impacts on their lifelong health and wellbeing.

We would like to emphasize IOM´s and SRSG´s unwavering commitment towards combatting trafficking in persons. We also reiterate the importance placed in partnerships to address the multifaceted needs generated by this phenomenon – as we have learned – based on more than 30 years of experience in providing assistance worldwide. We know that isolated interventions in one area alone are not effective and that we need comprehensive approaches that not only respond to immediate needs but that also address the driving forces and the demand side of trafficking in persons, which are crucial to achieving Agenda 2030, while building back better.

We must also learn from the victims and their struggles. Their strength in expressing their concerns, sharing their stories, suffering, abuse as well as their determination to help build

improved responses is not only crucial but also inspiring for all of us. IOM, to date, has assisted over 100,000 victims of trafficking to regain their freedom and start on their path to recovery.

As 2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, and under the overall theme of the Global Campaign of the UN Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, we appeal for accelerated action to end child trafficking.

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