Human trafficking is a parasitic crime that feeds on vulnerability, thrives in times of uncertainty and profits from inaction, said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).
"While the international community struggles with what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the biggest refugee and migration crisis since World War Two, human traffickers and migrant smugglers are taking advantage of misery to turn a profit," Fedotov said in a statement marking World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
Criminals prey on people in need and without support, and they see migrants, especially children, as easy targets for exploitation, violence and abuse, he noted, adding "Armed conflicts and humanitarian crises expose those caught in the crossfire to increased risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, organ removal, servitude and other forms of exploitation." While not all migrants are vulnerable to being trafficked, the forthcoming UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016 identifies a clear pattern linking undocumented migration to trafficking in persons, he said.
Certain migration flows appear particularly vulnerable to trafficking in persons. Citizens from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador represent about 20 percent of the victims detected in the United States, while the legal migration flows from these countries represent about five percent of the total. Similar patterns are found in Western Europe, where citizens from South Eastern Europe comprise a large share of detected victims.
The UNODC report, which will be released later this year, further highlights the links between human trafficking and refugee flows from countries, including Syria and Eritrea, and involving Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
"We clearly need to do more to stop human traffickers as part of coordinated and comprehensive responses to the refugee crisis and continuing migration challenges we are facing around the world.
"I call on governments to ratify and effectively implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols on trafficking and migrant smuggling, to assist and protect victims and the rights of smuggled migrants, and promote the international cooperation needed to bring criminals to justice."