Child trafficking is a major global issue, but governments are not the only culprits. The report includes chapters on individual countries and highlights their efforts to combat trafficking. In its Russia chapter, for instance, the report said that Moscow has been complicit in the forced labor of thousands of North Korean migrant workers, despite United Nations resolutions.
Global trends in child trafficking
Data released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) show that human trafficking is increasing across the globe. In 2005, it was estimated that 12.3 million people were victims of trafficking. By 2012, this number had increased to 21 million. By 2016, the UN agency estimated that there were 40.3 million victims. This includes 24.9 million people trapped in modern slavery, 15.4 million trapped in forced labor, and 4 million trapped in forced sexual exploitation.
Children are being recruited by armed groups and government forces for forced labor and sex slavery. These groups use these children as a source of income or as a means of obtaining higher wages. Many of them are sexually abused. In some cases, children are sold to other countries as soldiers or sex slaves.
In addition to forced labor, children are also engaged in child labor, often without the knowledge of their parents. Some of these workers are exploited on farms, scavenging in garbage dumps, or fighting as child combatants in armed conflict. According to UNICEF, there are at least 25 million people trapped in forced labor, including 4 million children. Others are forced to work in mining shafts, fishing vessels, and brick kilns.
Regional trends in child trafficking
Regional trends in child trafficking by country, as reported by the UNODC, highlight a trend of increasing levels of forced labour. In 2016, more than half of African countries fully met the Trafficking Victims Protection Act minimum standards, and half are making significant progress. These countries will likely make additional improvements over the next year.
Child exploitation is also on the rise online. More children are consuming pornography and video games, and they are more likely to become a victim of child trafficking. As a result, international law enforcement agencies and the FBI are warning children and youth about the dangers of exploitation over the internet. In addition, some commercial sex industries have moved their operations online, and webcam sex trafficking is likely to grow.
The report also covers cross-border trafficking, which occurs when migrants from one country attempt to work in a neighboring country for a few months. These migrants often are in temporary positions, and their illegal status provides the perfect opportunity for human traffickers to take advantage of their vulnerability and lack of protection.
Impacts of COVID on child trafficking
The impact of COVID-19 is being examined in the context of the migrant workforce in Southeast Asia. The region is characterized by its young population and varying levels of socio-economic development. There are also restrictions on labour mobility and weak governance, making for precarious migration.
The impacts of COVID-19 are particularly pronounced in countries that do not have strong social safety nets and limited protections for non-citizens.
The COVID pandemic has resulted in an increased number of vulnerable persons who are exploited for labor and sexual exploitation. These victims have been mainly women and girls. The effects of COVID-19 have been compounded by the lack of proper measures to prevent the pandemic from reoccurring.
The report highlights lessons learned and recommends a variety of policies and interventions to reduce the prevalence of child trafficking.
During the reporting period, state labor inspectors conducted approximately 4,300 inspections, up from 3,982 inspections in 2020. Of these, seventy-two percent of the cases resulted in criminal cases. The government did not report how many of these cases resulted in convictions, but the majority of trafficking cases were the result of multi-day enforcement operations, which involved local authorities and police.
In addition, police conducted enforcement operations in massage parlors and brothels to crack down on trafficking.
Efforts to reduce child trafficking
Human traffickers disproportionately target girls, exploiting their vulnerabilities and exploiting cultural norms that value women and girls as less than men. These norms often lead to girls being pulled out of school to perform domestic and agricultural duties. In addition, extreme weather and natural disasters often postpone girls’ return to school, making them even more vulnerable to exploitation.
Human trafficking disproportionately impacts women, people of color, and LGBTQI+ people. The administration will continue to strengthen efforts to address the problem through the National Action Plan. The new Plan will link the Department’s other initiatives, including the administration’s commitment to gender equity, workers’ rights, and the prevention and addressing of forced labor in the global supply chain.
The TIP Report urges governments to impose stricter accountability measures and reform their policies and laws to tackle human trafficking. It also recommends that governments create a multi-stakeholder strategy and integrate the expertise of trafficking survivors. In addition, they should support media and civil society reporting on human trafficking, as well as provide whistleblower protection.