A new UN report outlines how numbers of known trafficking victims are increasing following the pandemic which may be as a result of the war in Ukraine.
Numbers rising following pandemic
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, trafficking numbers had dropped for the first time in 20 years with the number of detected trafficking victims dropping 11 percent in 2020. Now, those numbers are rising again due in part to the war in Ukraine.
“This change in trends could be the result of three different factors affecting especially low- and medium- income countries during the pandemic: lower institutional capacity to detect victims, fewer opportunities for traffickers to operate due to COVID-19 preventive restrictions, and some trafficking forms moving to more hidden and less likely to be detected locations,” it said.
Conflict and war are known factors in driving up numbers of detected trafficking victims, and the war in Ukraine is likely to have played a role in increasing numbers once more.
“The refugee emergency in Ukraine is elevating risks of trafficking for the Ukrainian displaced population. The 2014 conflict in Ukraine quadrupled the number of Ukrainian victims detected in Western Europe in 2016,” it said, referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The number of Ukrainian victims quadrupled the number of detected victims in Western Europe in 2016 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Trafficking driven underground
The report noted that the numbers of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation may have reduced during the pandemic as a result of public spaces closing down. This isn’t to say that the true numbers of victims decreased, it points to trafficking being driven underground during the pandemic.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, trafficking had “been pushed into less visible and less safe locations, making this form of trafficking more concealed and harder to be detected” during COVID-19.