UNODC launches new action to combat human trafficking

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling are multi-billion-dollar businesses that have changed dramatically in recent years, driven by global challenges such as war, large migration and refugee flows, cybercrime, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Against this backdrop, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is launching a global Action against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling.

“Over the past two decades, there was relative optimism that we could win the fight against trafficking and smuggling globally,” said Ilias Chatzis, Chief of the UNODC Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section. “Then things changed drastically. Progress achieved is today under threat.”

The involvement of organized crime and the rapid evolution of digital technologies have exacerbated the situation. Online technologies are regularly abused to exploit trafficking victims or advertise migrant smuggling services. Financial crises, armed conflicts and forced displacement, catalyzed by the pandemic, have strained justice systems, significantly reducing investigations, prosecutions, victim identification and protection. In 2020 alone, the number of detected victims worldwide fell by 11 per cent compared to the previous year.

Under its new Action, UNODC will highlight the links between trafficking and smuggling and other forms of organized crime such as cybercrime, money laundering, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, and corruption. Given the overwhelming number of child victims – more than 30 per cent of all victims identified globally – it will prioritize the fight against child trafficking and will give voice to human trafficking survivors.

UNODC’s work against migrant smuggling will broaden its scope to encompass the protection of vulnerable migrants and the identification of human trafficking victims among migration and refugee flows. Under the Action, UNODC will also expand its on-the-ground presence, deploying resident experts to countries most in need of assistance, while redoubling its commitment to sustainable development and gender equality.

UNODC has been at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking and migrant smuggling for over 20 years, since the adoption of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols against these crimes. These instruments have now garnered near-universal ratification since the early 2000s, with 181 states acceding to the Trafficking Protocol and 151 states to the Smuggling Protocol.

“During this time, UNODC has emerged as the leading organization in the fight against human trafficking and migrant smuggling. We remain committed to the eradication of these crimes,” Chatzis said, citing over a thousand technical, legal and policy assistance activities spanning some 120 countries in recent years.

UNODC has trained over 35,000 anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling experts, helped investigate and prosecute hundreds of cases, and supported numerous victims of these crimes.

Photo credit: iStock/ c59824d2_19

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