Human trafficking numbers increase because of COVID-19

Human trafficking numbers are growing because of Covid-19, according to a joint statement from Caritas Internationalis and Christian Organisation Against Trafficking (COATNET).

Many of the pandemic’s socio-economic effects are aggravating human trafficking and exploitation, which the International Labour Organization (ILO) says affects over 40 million people.

Caritas and COATNET are urging governments to intensify efforts to identify victims of trafficking and put a stop to the trafficking business.

Secretary general of Caritas, Aloysius John, says “Focused attention on the pandemic must not prevent us from taking care of the people most vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.”

John says local Caritas and COATNET member organisations, along with civil society organisations all over the world, are providing much-needed safety nets for victims of trafficking and exploitation.

The work is continuing, even during the pandemic and includes accompanying the victims in their difficulties, offering material, medical, legal and psychological help.

Insufficient attention, however, is being paid to the pandemic’s collateral damage, which has especially affected migrants and informal workers, who are now more exposed to trafficking and exploitation.

Securing housing is an important form of prevention against trafficking.

“The state of emergency has worsened the risk of homelessness for agricultural seasonal workers who cannot comply with hygiene and social distancing measures and who have no food because lockdown means they can’t work,” Catitas Spain says.

Lockdown and travel restrictions mean human trafficking victims have less chance of escaping and seeking help when they are held against their will.

Human trafficking numbers including children have increased and exploitation opportunities during the pandemic are especially featuring children. In addition, lockdown measures have caused sharp increases in cases of violence against minors.

Caritas says in India, “there has also been an increase in cases of child labour and child marriage. Due to the difficult economic conditions, families marry off their young daughters so there’s one less mouth to feed.”

Moreover, as a result of school closure many children are being forced onto the streets to search for food and money, increasing their risk of being exploited.

For other children, serious dangers also come from the Internet, where children using it for home schooling can be lured and exploited.

Caritas Internationalis and COATNET:

– urge governments, as a matter of priority, to provide victims of human trafficking with access to basic services, in particular shelters and support hotlines, access to justice and to support organisations that take care of them.

– ask institutions and civil society organisations to provide children with protection from the abuse and exploitation, in particular through the internet.

– ask governments, in this time of Covid-19, to put in place urgent and targeted measures to support workers in informal sectors and to intensify efforts in identifying victims of trafficking and exploitation, through greater control and measures such as labour inspections.

– and urge all people to be vigilant and to denounce cases of human trafficking and exploitation.


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