People trafficking increases in contexts of armed conflict and when sexual exploitation is the main objective

Global report on trafficking in persons 2018Last December the 2018 global report on people trafficking 2018 was published, elaborated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The report analyses the dynamics of people trafficking and its evolution over recent years, and emphasises the relationship between people trafficking and armed conflicts. It is in the context of armed conflicts where this practice is accentuated especially by armed groups that partake in the conflict with the aim of financing armed activity, but also by organised crime groups and individuals.

The study is divided into two blocks: in the first, a general vision is offered of what people trafficking actually is, the main practices, the flows, the profile of the victims and the global dynamics; and in the second, there is detailed information in accordance with regions. The report can be summarised with the following main conclusions:

The ability to detect and inform of the number of victims has increased in most countries, as has the number of convictions. This change is particularly due to the fact that over recent years trafficking-related legislation has been modified, efforts have increased to detect this type of crime, as has cooperation with other countries, and more resources have been assigned to the protection of victims and the most vulnerable groups. While in 2009, only 26 countries had an institution responsible for collecting information regarding people trafficking cases, in 2018 this number increased to 65. An accurate collection of data is vital when designing an appropriate strategy to combat this type of crime.

On the other hand, there are still territories where traffickers enjoy a high level of impunity. Especially in Asia and Africa there are countries where the mechanisms for collecting data are not correctly implanted and where the number of cases of people trafficking presented is relatively low. However, in other regions with better information gathering mechanisms they do detect cases of trafficking of people from other regions, which indicates that numbers are not real.

Regarding the geographic scope of people trafficking, the yearly report stresses that in less developed countries most cases of people trafficking that are detected are of a national nature: the victims are citizens of the same country. In countries in Western Europe and the Middle East, on the other hand, the victims come from distant regions, while the percentage of national victims from the same country is of little significance.

Adult women are the main victims of people trafficking. 49% of all victims are women, followed by 23% girls, a number that is on the rise. Men are victims in 21% of cases and boys in 7%. This trend, however, is not uniform as it varies in accordance with the region. In America and in the Caribbean, girls are the main victims, while in central Asia, the percentage of underage victims is very low and men and women, with a similar percentage, are the victims.

The variation of gender and age is particularly related to the objective of the trafficking. At a global level, sexual exploitation continues to be the main aim of people trafficking, followed by forced labour. Other forms of exploitation detected in some regions, although to a lesser extent, are: forced marriage in some countries in south east Asia, illegal adoption in central and South America, extracting organs in North Africa and in central and eastern Europe and child trafficking to be exploited for the purpose of begging or the production of pornography.

Finally, as stressed previously, the study stresses the incidence of armed conflict in people trafficking. The lack of resources to combat crime, the fragility of the state of law and people’s despair at not having access to basic resources provides the optimum context for traffickers to carry out their activities. In conflict zones, in many cases armed groups engage in people trafficking for economic reasons, to finance their activities. People trafficking not only increases in the areas where the conflict is taking place, but also in neighbouring countries, especially in refugee camps.

People trafficking is one of the most thriving criminal activities on an International scale, and is one of the most profitable. It is for this reason that combating this type of trafficking is an important challenge to global security. Despite the progress made in recent years, there remains a lot of work to do, particularly in certain areas of Africa and Asia.

To consult the whole report look at the following link:


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