The UN has raised alarm that criminal groups feed off the instability created by conflicts.
According to the UN, the links between wars, trafficking and migrant smuggling have now become more widely known.
The Executive Director of UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, in his message for the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, called on the international community to act now to help protect trafficking victims and to end the crime forever.
Human trafficking is the acquisition of people by force, fraud or deception to exploit them, including for sex and forced labour, while smuggling of migrants is considered part of human trafficking.
“Conflict is a breeding ground for criminal activity. People forced from their homes are falling prey to human traffickers as they try desperately to escape the violence.
“As evidence grows of conflict’s ability to nourish crime, the international community is increasingly recognising the need to confront people’s vulnerability to trafficking during conflicts.’’
Fedotov recalled that in 2016, UN Security Council passed its first-ever resolution on trafficking, while 2016 New York Declaration called for the need to vigorously combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling, as well as provide support and assistance under the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
This year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons has as its theme: “Let’s act now to protect and assist trafficking victims.”
In line with this year’s theme, the UN is promoting the Trust Fund for trafficking victims, as well as the Blue Heart Campaign, which is being adopted across the world.
“Resources, well-supported advocacy, cooperation under international law, and action on the ground are the starting points for tackling this dehumanising crime that shames everyone,” Fedotov said.
The Trust Fund facilitates effective on-the-ground assistance and protection for victims of trafficking, through grants to specialised Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs).
Victims coming from areas of armed conflict and those identified among large refugee and migration flows are being prioritised.
“Victims of trafficking have been targeted for sexual exploitation and pornography, organ removal, forced begging, forced criminality and other crimes.
“Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims,” the UNODC said.
“Children make up almost one-third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the UN agency’s latest report on trafficking, while women and girls comprise 71 per cent of human trafficking victims, UNODC said.
Two UN human rights experts are also taking the opportunity provided by the World Day to warn that present systems designed to protect migrant children are failing, leaving many at risk of trafficking, sale and other forms of exploitation.
“So many children have died in conflict zones and along their perilous journey,” said Special Rapporteurs Maria Grazia Giammarinaro and Maud de Boer-Buquicchio in a statement issued ahead of the day.
The experts warned that all children fleeing conflicts, especially those travelling alone, are vulnerable to sexual and labour exploitation.
The World Day was set aside by the UN General Assembly in 2013 to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”
The UN International Labour Organisation estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally, including victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation.