Bogota launches drive to combat invisible slavery, increase convictions

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Human TraffickingSlavery In conflict

Over 300,000 people are estimated to be victims of human trafficking in Colombia, however few trafficking cases make it to court, with even fewer convictions. In 2017, 16 trafficking victims have been rescued and 33 suspected traffickers arrested in Bogota. Authorities reported only 30 cases in 2016, up from six in 2015.

But a new public awareness campaign seeks to change that, according to Bogota’s Deputy Mayor, Miguel Uribe Turbay. The campaign involves large glass boxes featuring actors who represent different forms of modern slavery. Some are dressed like sex workers, while others wear hard hats and hold shovels to represent forced labor.

Uribe raised concerns that human trafficking may rise in Bogota and the rest of Colombia after a peace deal ended conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Research from other countries shows human trafficking increases dramatically in countries following armed conflict, as former combatants turn to other means of generating illegal profit.

The escalating humanitarian crisis in nearby Venezuela may also lead people to flee to Colombia, adding to the number of vulnerable potential victims.

Speaking to Thomson Reuters Foundation, Uribe said “Unfortunately we’re aware that there’s underreporting of cases, and much of that is explained due to a lack of awareness about the issue of human trafficking,” he added.”We’re sure that from this campaign, we’ll have more reports of trafficking … and especially more convictions.”

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