Human traffickers preying more on children, men, laborers

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The face of human trafficking is changing with more children and men falling prey and more victims trapped in forced labor than a decade ago, the United Nations reported on Wednesday.

International trafficking that exploits vulnerable refugees and migrants is reaching "appalling dimensions" and more trafficking is occurring within countries, said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The UNODC found trafficking in 106 countries and territories, Fedotov told the U.N. Security Council, with trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labor, and begging most common and children making up a third of all victims.

"Human trafficking is pervasive," Fedotov said in prepared remarks ahead of the release of the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

"It is transnational, and its victims are everywhere."

The UNODC studied trends among some 63,000 trafficking victims between 2012 and 2014, just a sliver of the 21 million people estimated to be trafficked worldwide by the U.N.'s International Labour Organization (ILO).

Its research, carried out every two years and based largely on information from national authorities, found the number of children ensnared in trafficking was rising, more than doubling to 28 percent of victims in 2014 from 13 percent in 2004.

More boys than girls were found to be victims in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there is more trafficking for forced labor, child soldiers and begging.

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SHAMLAPUR, BANGLADESH - JULY 4: A photograph of Rohingya trafficking victim Mohammad Aiaz is seen July 4, 2015 in Shamlapur, Bangladesh. On March 5, 2015 Aiaz met a man who promised to take him to a good job in Malaysia for free. He left Bangladesh with 13 other Rohingya. A few days after that his mother, Lila Begum, got a phone call from her son saying he was on the ship and that she needed to pay a man in Teknaf 200,000 taka ($2,570) or he would be killed. She managed to pay 175,000 but she has not heard from her son since. In the past months thousands of Rohingya have landed on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, many of them by way of Bangladesh. The Rohingya pay up to $2,000 to traffickers, and they sail out from Bangladesh's southern coastline on fishing boats to meet larger ships in the deep sea that will take them to Malaysia. UNHCR estimates that there are more than 300,000 Rohingya living in Bangladesh. (Photo by Shazia Rahman/Getty Images)
An armed Malaysian policeman checks a driver's documentations a day after the government announced the discovery of camps and graves, the first such sites found in Malaysia since a regional human-trafficking crisis erupted earlier this month, near Malaysia-Thailand borders in Wang Kelian on May 25, 2015. A total of 139 grave sites and 28 human-trafficking camps have been found in a remote northern Malaysian border region, the country's top police official told reporters. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist takes photo of 24 alleged human traffickers' pictures displayed on a board, released by Italian police during a press conference in Palermo on April 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Sex workers and sympathizers demonstrate on April 9, 2015 against the closure of window brothels by the municipality in the red light district in Amsterdam. With Project 1012, the Amsterdam wants to close window prostitution to prevent crime, human trafficking and degradation. AFP PHOTO / ANP / ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN - netherlands out - (Photo credit should read ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump speaks during a meeting on action to end modern slavery and human trafficking on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
ATHENS, ATTIKI, GREECE - 2017/10/14: Greek human right activists take part in the 2017 Walk for Freedom event raising awareness about Human Trafficking. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, ATTIKI, GREECE - 2017/10/14: Greek human right activists take part in the 2017 Walk for Freedom event raising awareness about Human Trafficking. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)


Girls were more often victims in Central America, the Caribbean and South America, where trafficking for sexual exploitation is more common.

UNODC said while most trafficking victims are female, the proportion of men had risen to 21 percent from 13 percent a decade earlier while the number of victims trafficked for forced labor had also increased.

About four in 10 victims were trafficked for forced labor, most of them men, compared with three in 10 victims in 2007.

Forced labor victims were found most often in domestic work, agriculture, fishing, restaurants, construction and mining.

Domestic trafficking, that happens within a country's borders, rose to 43 percent of cases in 2012 to 2014 from 34 percent the previous two years.

UNODC said migrants from conflict zones and countries ravaged by organized crime were particularly vulnerable to international trafficking.

"The rapid increase in the number of Syrian victims of trafficking in persons following the start of the conflict there, for instance, seems to be one example of how these vulnerabilities play out," Fedotov said.

Children and people with disabilities were targeted for trafficking for begging while other trafficking victims were found forced into sham marriages, forced to make pornography, or made to participate in fraud schemes to steal benefits.

About 10 countries reported trafficking for organ removal.

UNODC said the number of countries that passed laws criminalizing trafficking grew to 158 this year from 33 in 2003 but there was still too few convictions with 15 percent of countries reporting no convictions at all.

"The rate of convictions remains far too low, and victims are not always receiving the protection and services countries are obliged to provide," Fedotov said. (Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Alisa Tang and Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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