UN says governments fail to protect victims of trafficking

18 February 2009

Nearly 99 per cent of trafficking victims are not identified, the first United Nations global report on human trafficking has found. The report also criticises governments for failing to prosecute traffickers and exposes the role women play in the trafficking of other women into the sex industry.

The report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which includes data from 155 countries, found less than 22,000 of the 2 million people estimated to be trafficked globally each year are identified by the authorities.

The report criticised many governments for failing to prosecute traffickers, with nearly 40 per cent of the countries examined not recording a single conviction.

Klara Skrivankova, trafficking programme coordinator at Anti-Slavery International, said: “This report proves that without the proper identification of victims, or the commitment to prosecute the criminals behind the trade, the mere adoption of anti-trafficking laws or conventions is not enough to protect people.”

The report also revealed that the majority of traffickers in almost one third of these countries are female. Women accounted for more than 60 per cent of human trafficking convictions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“It is a double tragedy when sometimes in an attempt to secure their own release from slavery, women are forced to act as recruiters and trap others into the same horrendous circumstances,” said Ms Skrivankova.

The report found 80 per cent are trafficked into the sex industry, followed by 18 per cent trafficked into forced labour.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, said these figures could be an “optical illusion” because of the high visibility of sex trafficking.

“We only see the monster’s tail,” said Mr Costa. “How many hundreds of thousands are slaving away in sweat shops, fields, mines, factories, or trapped in domestic servitude?”

Ms Skrivankova explained many trafficked people face double exploitation. “The victims of sexual slavery can also find themselves forced to work without pay in sweatshops or as domestic workers,” she said.

Mr Costa raised concerns that the credit crunch was likely to result in an increase in the trafficking of vulnerable people and Ms Skrivankova warned businesses to consider the social impact of reducing their bottom line.

“The global financial crisis should not be an excuse for businesses to compromise standards. Contracting out to firms which offer to provide goods or a workforce at unrealistic prices can lead to an increased likelihood of forced labour in their supply chains,” she said.