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Take action against trafficking in persons

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Everyone needs to take action to prevent this heinous crime.

Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex.

Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, of transit, or the destination for victims.

Since 2003 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has collected information on about 225,000 victims of trafficking detected worldwide.

Globally, countries are detecting and reporting more victims and are convicting more traffickers. This could be the result of increased capacity to identify victims and/or an increased number of trafficked victims.

Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls: the vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 per cent of those trafficked for forced labour are female.

Conflict exacerbates vulnerabilities, with armed groups exploiting civilians and traffickers targeting forcibly displaced people.

But data also shows that trafficking happens all around us: the proportion of persons trafficked within their own country has doubled in recent years to 58 per cent of all detected victims, according to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender with high-profile connections including President Trump and whose friendship with Prince Andrew has long been a source of controversy has been accused in a US civil lawsuit of running a sex trafficking ring of underage girls for rich and powerful men – including the Prince, according to court papers filed on behalf of “Jane Doe 3” – is at one end of the spectrum.

At the other, women like Anna, who was trafficked and forced to work as a sex slave in Belfast. Last year a BBC drama told her story. Harrowing viewing, it portrayed her ordeal in detail, as well as the work of a team of Northern Ireland police (PSNI) attempting to catch the criminal gang exploiting her.

Originally from Romania, Anna was kidnapped in broad daylight in London. She was then sold to a gang who kept her and other women to in ‘pop-up’ brothels in a number of cities in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including Belfast.

And hundreds of victims of trafficking have been locked up in detention centres in the UK by the Home Office instead of being looked after in safe houses and provided with a package of support, the first research into the extent of the problem has revealed.

That report, carried out by the data mapping project After Exploitation using freedom of information responses, reveals that 507 victims of trafficking were detained in 2018 despite Home Office guidance that this group should not normally be locked up.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge.

The Plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programmes in order to boost development and strengthen security worldwide.

One of the crucial provisions in the Plan is the establishment of a UN Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of trafficking, especially women and children.

The Trust Fund facilitates effective, on-the-ground assistance and protection to victims of trafficking, through grants to specialised NGOs. It aims to prioritise victims coming from a context of armed conflict and those identified among large refugee and migration flows.

And in September 2015, the world adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and embraced goals and targets on trafficking in persons.

These goals call for an end to trafficking and violence against children; as well as the need for measures against human trafficking, and they strive for the elimination of all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.

Another important development is the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which produced the ground-breaking New York Declaration.

Of the nineteen commitments adopted by countries in the Declaration, three are dedicated to concrete action against the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

And despite many countries having national trafficking laws in place which are in line with the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, people continue to be trafficked.

What is more, in many countries, victims may still be criminalised while the impunity of traffickers prevails.

Last year, 2,726 suspected victims of trafficking were identified; meaning almost one-fifth were put in detention.

In 2013, the General Assembly held a high-level meeting to appraise the Global Plan of Action, and Member States adopted resolution A/RES/68/192 and designated July 30 as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

This resolution declared that such a day was necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilise political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.

The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

“On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to stop criminals from ruthlessly exploiting people for profit and to help victims rebuild their lives,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, in his statement for the day.

And on the 2019 World Day UNODC is focusing on highlighting the importance of government action in the interest of victims of trafficking.

But the call to action is not only to governments; the UNODC is encouraging everyone to take action to prevent this heinous crime – to find out what you can do, click here.

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