World Day against Trafficking in Persons

Event Date: 
Monday, July 30, 2018
New York

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

Today, 30 July 2018, marks the fifth World Day against Trafficking in Persons, which provides an opportunity to reflect on our shared responsibility and show solidarity with victims of this crime.

This year, the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT) decided to focus in particular on trafficking in children and young people, who represent 28 per cent of the total victims of trafficking identified worldwide (20 per cent girls and 8 per cent boys). Across regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, children account for an even higher proportion of identified trafficking victims, at 64 and 62 per cent respectively.

The vulnerability of children and young adults to trafficking is very high. Children and young people face considerable risks when, in the absence of safe and legal migration pathways, they must turn to smugglers to travel to distant countries, often unaccompanied. Protecting them is also particularly important as humanitarian crises and armed conflict have left children and young people at greater risk of being trafficked.

At the same time, human traffickers misuse the Internet and new technologies to broaden their reach, using apps and chat rooms to exploit and abuse young people. For example, young girls can be deceived into sham marriages or blackmailed into sexual exploitation and young boys can be lured using false promises of better work.

Even when children and young people are identified as victims of trafficking, they remain vulnerable. Many countries’ child protection systems are under-resourced, compounded by an acute lack of guardianship and other alternative care arrangements. Even when services are available they are often neither child nor gender sensitive. Trafficked children and young people are sometimes detained or placed in accommodation which is not suited to their needs, exposing them to the risk of further traumatization and re-victimization. Trafficked boys can face additional challenges, as gender stereotypes can prevent them from seeking or receiving the help they need, while girls may also be at risk of further exploitation and abuse due to gender discrimination and gendered poverty.    

There is thus a dire need to strengthen the international response to trafficking in children and young people, ensuring that the best interests of children and young people protected under the Convention of the Rights of the Child are upheld. National counter-trafficking responses should ensure a high standard of protection and support, taking into account the special vulnerabilities, rights and needs for trafficked children and young people.

To assist in the elaboration of a child-specific international response, today ICAT released an Issue Brief addressing the scale of trafficking in children and young people, and discussing child-specific drivers and challenges. ICAT also formulated a series of key recommendations, stressing first and foremost the importance of placing the best interests of the child as the primary consideration in laws, policies, programmes and interventions on human trafficking. 

To launch the Issue Brief, ICAT organized a panel discussion in New York, together with the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking and the non-governmental organization, Rani’s Voice. UNICEF, the 2018 Chair of ICAT, moderated the event and presented the key messages pinpointed in the Issue Brief.

Ms. Saskia Blume, Policy Specialist on Migration and Displacement, UNICEF, on behalf of ICAT 2018 Chair, stressed that “for child protection systems for trafficked children to be effective, they need to be connected across borders. If we are really serious about the protection of children on the move, cross-border cooperation will not only be between law enforcement but also between protection actors”.   

Mr. Yury Fedotov Executive Director of UNODC, Coordinator of ICAT, also delivered a video-message, highlighting thatEffective action against human trafficking, that takes to heart the best interests of children and young people, requires coordination and cooperation.”