The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched its 2022 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, showing a drop in cases of trafficking as a result of outbreak of COVID-19.
This s the sixth of its kind mandated by the United Nations General Assembly in its Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and covered 141 countries and providing an overview of patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at global, regional, and national levels, based on trafficking cases detected between 2017 and 2021.
According to a statement on Tuesday, “the report draws upon the largest existing dataset on trafficking in persons, with information on the more than 450,000 victims and 300,000 (suspected) offenders detected worldwide between 2003 and 2021” while noting “the role of organized crime groups as the engine behind long-distance trafficking.”
“For the first time, the number of victims detected globally decreased by 11%.
“This reduction is largely driven by low- and medium-low-income countries and due to lower institutional capacity to detect victims, fewer opportunities for traffickers to operate (taking into consideration the COVID-19 context), and some trafficking forms moving to more hidden locations less likely to be detected.
“Notwithstanding, some regions such as western & southern Europe, Eastern Europe & Central Asia, Central & South-Eastern Europe, as well as North America, recorded an increase in detection.”
The statement revealed that this global tendency was verified in Nigeria as well, with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) statistics shows 1076 cases of trafficking in persons recorded in 2018 against 1032 cases in 2020.
COVID-19 is sad to have had an important impact on trafficking flows. In Sub-Saharan Africa, border closures and travel restrictions led to a 36% drop in cross-border trafficking victims detected between 2019 and 2020, but however, detected domestic trafficking victims increased by 24% over the same period.
The statement also said the COVID-19 pandemic equally accelerated a global slowdown in convictions. A 27% reduction in convictions was recorded globally in 2020.
Sub-Saharan Africa experienced a 6% drop in its conviction rate in 2020 compared to 2019.
“This observation is less pronounced in Nigeria. Although there was a decrease in the number of persons brought into formal contact with the police and/or criminal justice system for TIP-related affairs (823 persons in 2018 compared to 701 in 2019 and 733 in 2020) as well as in the numbers of persons prosecuted (113 in 2017 versus 87 in 2020), the number of persons convicted of trafficking in persons very slightly increased with 50 convictions in 2018 and 51 convictions in 2020.
“There was however a big drop in 2019 with only 25 convictions recorded in Nigeria for that year,” according to the statement.
Although countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are convicting fewer traffickers and detecting fewer victims compared to the rest of the world, those regions provide a significant and increasing share of the victims identified in countries of exploitation. In 2020, according to NAPTIP, the main countries from which Nigerian victims were repatriated included Benin, Lebanon, Oman, Mali, and Togo.
Most victims detected in Sub-Saharan Africa are either citizen of the country of detection or citizens of other Sub-Saharan countries.
The statement said the flows from Sub-Saharan Africa are far more varied and extensive.
Victims from Sub-Saharan Africa are detected in the largest number of countries globally.
Of the flows, most trafficked outside the region are detected in countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and in Europe.
The report noted that in 2020 the population of boys and men being trafficked for different purposes recorded a slightly significant increase to a total of 13 % and 23 % respectively as opposed to 3% and 13% in the previous years.
It disclosed that the share of women as detected victims of all forms of trafficking continued to fall (a decline of 10 percent in one year) along with drastically fewer victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, and for the first time, trafficking for labour is slightly more detected than trafficking for sexual exploitation globally; although in Nigeria, NAPTIP data shows that sexual exploitation remains the first form of exploitation with 460 cases against 279 cases recorded for forced labour.
According to the statement, relatedly, NAPTIP statistics show a reduction in the number of detected female victims throughout the years: 961 in 2018, 929 in 2019, and 868 in 2020. Even so, in Sub-Saharan Africa, girls and women together still make up the largest share of victims, accounting for 62% of the total and more children than adults (especially girls) continue to be detected as victims.
Female victims are also three times more likely to suffer violent forms of trafficking. An increased proportion of victims of mixed forms of exploitation (for example both women and men forced to work as maids and for other purposes), was equally underlined in the report.
The statement said: “The report also assesses the impact of climate change as well as of conflict on trafficking in persons. A further interesting aspect of the report did highlight the especially strong link between trafficking in person and conflict. Forced displaced populations are more vulnerable to traffickers and most victims detected come from the zone in conflicts, mainly Sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East, are the most exploited in these regions.”