By Haruna Gimba
The United Nations has urged member states to take action against human trafficking, where a third of all victims are children.
UN Secretary General António Guterres stated this on Thursday, while highlighting how the COVID pandemic has pushed as many as 124 million more people into extreme poverty.
The UN chief insisted that “many millions” have been left vulnerable to the scourge of poverty.
According to him, half of victims in low-income countries are children adding that most are trafficked for forced labour.
“Criminals everywhere are using technology to identify, control and exploit vulnerable people,” the UN chief said, adding that children are increasingly targeted through online platforms for sexual exploitation, forced marriage and other forms of abuse.
Coinciding with this year’s World Day, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched a campaign titled ‘Victims’ Voices Lead the Way’ to put a spotlight on victims’ untold stories, and on their roles in the fight against trafficking.
Executive Director of the UNODC, Ghada Waly, said “victims’ voices are key to preventing trafficking, supporting survivors, and bringing perpetrators to justice.” Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened vulnerabilities to trafficking, she said “victims’ contributions are more critical than ever.”
UNODC assists countries and all stakeholders in implementing the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, and in developing victim-centred approaches.
Through the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, the agency also provides essential support to victims, and helps empower them as part of the response.
Ms. Waly called on all Member States to support the fund and help amplify victims’ stories.
“Rather than being protected and assisted without discrimination as children at risk, child victims of trafficking are treated as irregular migrants or subjected to criminal prosecutions, and have their age and credibility questioned,” said UN-appointed expert on human trafficking, Siobhán Mullally.
Ms. Mullally joined the call for action, stating that “racism, xenophobia and gender-based discrimination are putting the human rights of trafficking victims at risk and enabling those who carry out the illegal trade to continue with impunity.
“Instead of being identified as victims of a serious human rights violation, victims are being arrested, detained, denied assistance and protection and even forcibly returned to countries of origin because of racial profiling and discrimination at border crossings and in criminal justice systems.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres urged governments to take urgent steps to strengthen prevention, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
This includes implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.