Human trafficking has decreased considerably during the pandemic, at least the officially registered cases.
The UN is concerned that – especially in poorer countries – trafficking, prostitution and forced labor are moving underground or via the Internet, with no way for law enforcement to pursue them.
“There was a wave of sexual exploitation online. The justice systems and the police in several countries simply stopped working during the pandemic, as they had to divert resources to other purposes to maintain public health,” explains Ilias Chatzis, head of the Human Trafficking Section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In 2020, 11% fewer cases of human trafficking were detected worldwide than the previous year. The differences between rich and poor regions are enormous. While the numbers halved in East Asia and North Africa, they rose in Europe and North America, where, according to the UN, more researchers and resources were available.
The fact that the number of cases detected worldwide has fallen for the first time in twenty years does not necessarily mean that it is good news. In other years, traffickers had the opportunity to expand their criminal structures without being detected.
“The numbers have decreased so much that if we want to have a real chance of eradicating this crime, we have to think differently,” Chatzis says.
The UN says countries need to beat traffickers at their own game… as this crime is increasingly carried out over the internet, investigators must also take more action online. Hoping that in the future, fewer registered cases will also mean fewer actual cases.
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