Men and children are increasingly becoming the victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, the United Nations has warned.
New data published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reveals that while women and girls account for 71% of human trafficking victims, continuing unrest in the Middle East and Africa – along with a huge surge in migration – has left more men and children vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Launching the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said the exploitation of vulnerable migrants and refugees by human traffickers has reached “appalling dimensions”, but that convictions for the crime remain unacceptably low.
“Trafficking for sexual exploitation and for forced labour remain the most prominently detected forms, but victims are also being trafficked to be used as beggars, for forced or sham marriages, benefit fraud, or production of pornography,” Fedotov said yesterday.
The report found that while children account for almost a third of trafficking victims globally, they make up 62% of those directly affected by the crime in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 64% in Central America and the Caribbean.
Fedotov noted that trafficking is often carried out by armed groups, which regularly force women and girls into sexual slavery or forced marriage, and men and boys into slavery or combat.
In Western and Southern Europe, woman account for 56% of all trafficking victims, of whom 67% are subjected to sexual exploitation. Men make up more than half of trafficking victims in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where the crime most commonly involves forced labour.
Globally, men accounted for 21% of human trafficking victims in 2014, up from 13% in 2004. The increase in the share of men among detected trafficking victims corresponds with a rise in trafficking for the purpose of forced labour. The UN found that around 40% of trafficking victims were forced to work for little or no wages between 2012 and 2014, 63% of whom were men.
“People escaping from war and persecution are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking,” Fedotov said.
“The urgency of their situation might lead them to make dangerous migration decisions. The rapid increase in the number of Syrian victims of trafficking in persons following the start of the conflict there, for instance, seems to be one example of how these vulnerabilities play out.”
Presenting the report’s findings in New York, Fedotov called for more resources to be allocated to identifying and assisting the victims of trafficking, and greater efforts to be made towards investigating and prosecuting offenders.
The UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide, in a private economy that generates some $150 billion (€143.5 billion) in illegal profits every year.