July 30 is World Day against Trafficking in Persons—first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. It is a global, multi-billion-dollar industry, with no country immune. Every year, millions of men, women and children fall victim to traffickers for the purpose of exploitation. This includes prostitution, forced labor, domestic servitude, forced begging and even organ removal. A crime that shames us all, human trafficking robs people of their dignity, dreams and basic human rights. It must end.
Caritas Cyprus is thankful to the UN Fund for Victims of Modern Slavery for its support of a project designed to assist victims of trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery currently in Cyprus. Through this project, Caritas Cyprus provides medical care, psychosocial support, vocational training, humanitarian assistance and legal advice to dozens struggling to recover from mistreatment, exploitation and abuse.
The theme for 2023 is “Reach every victim of trafficking, leave no one behind”. Global crises, conflicts, and the climate emergency are escalating trafficking risks. Displacement and socio-economic inequalities are impacting millions of people worldwide, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers. Those who lack legal status, live in poverty, have limited access to education, healthcare, or decent work, face discrimination, violence, or abuse, or come from marginalized communities are often the primary targets of traffickers.
Globally, national responses, particularly in developing States, appear to be deteriorating. Detection rates fell by 11% in 2020 and convictions plummeted by 27%, illustrating a worldwide slowdown in the criminal justice response to trafficking. The COVID-19 pandemic also changed the characteristics of trafficking, pushing it further underground and potentially increasing the dangers to victims by making the crime less likely to come to the attention of the authorities. In fact, only 41% of victims who manage to escape their ordeal reach out to the authorities on their own initiative – another clear sign that anti-trafficking responses are falling short.
In the context of trafficking in persons, leaving people behind means:
· failing to end the exploitation of trafficking victims,
· failing to support victim-survivors once they are free from their traffickers, and
· leaving identifiable groups vulnerable to traffickers. The campaign for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2023 aims to raise awareness of disturbing developments and trends identified by the latest UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons and calls on governments, law enforcement, public services, and civil society to assess and enhance their efforts to strengthen prevention, identify and support victims, and end impunity.
To #EndHumanTrafficking, we cannot allow this crime to be met with increasing indifference and impunity. We must strengthen resilience against exploitation and the underlying socio-economic and cultural issues that are conducive to trafficking. We must sensitize everyone to the topic of human trafficking and thus push attention towards those who can make a difference in terms of changing policy and national resource management to strengthen prevention measures, improve identification of victims, increase support of survivors and end impunity.