Bangladesh has urged its national and international partners to prioritize strengthening capacities to identify trafficking in persons and focus on creating a victim-friendly criminal justice system.

“The emerging effects of COVID 19 and climate change on human trafficking trends and pattern are alarming,” said Md. Aminul Islam Khan, Senior Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs, on Thursday.

Globally, the number of convictions for trafficking offences fell by 27 per cent in 2020 from the previous year – with sharper decreases registered in South Asia (56 per cent).

In addition, the number of victims detected globally fell by 11 per cent in 2020 from the previous year, driven by fewer detections in low- and medium-income countries.

Regional Representative, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia, Marco Teixeira, reflected that the Global Report mentions the risks linked with cyber enabled trafficking through modalities such as online recruitment and exploitation which were widely used by traffickers during the pandemic.

“While human traffickers are becoming more tech-savvy and are able to use technology successfully to their advantage, technology can also become an enhancing tool for the criminal justice system to detect, investigate and prosecute traffickers.”

The pandemic has increased vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons, further undercutting capacities to rescue victims and bring criminals to justice.

Fewer cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation were detected during the pandemic as public spaces were closed, and related restrictions may have pushed this form of trafficking into more concealed and less safe locations, making it harder to identify victims.

These are the major outcomes of the UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2022. Under the “The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants – Bangladesh (GLO.ACT– Bangladesh)” project, which is implemented by UNODC and IOM, the report was launched on Thursday in Bangladesh.

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At the launch event, Aimée Comrie, Global Coordinator, GLO.ACT, UNODC HQ in Vienna, Mizanur Rahman, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Mahdy Hassan, National Programme Coordinator, UNODC, shared the methodology, key findings and policy recommendations of the report.

The report covers 141 countries and provides an overview of patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at global, regional, and national levels based on trafficking cases detected between 2017 and 2021.

The findings are further informed by an analysis of 800 court case summaries and accompanied by detailed suggestions to policymakers to help formulate effective responses.

Court case analysis featured in the report further shows that trafficking victims when they are identified, escape from traffickers on their own and are in effect ‘self-rescued’ – there are more cases of victims escaping and reporting to authorities of their own initiative (41 per cent) than cases where victims were located by law enforcement (28 per cent), members of the community and civil society (11 per cent). This is especially alarming considering many victims of trafficking may not identify themselves as victims or may be too afraid of their exploiters to attempt to escape.

The report shows higher levels of impunity in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Countries in these regions convict fewer traffickers and detect fewer victims than the rest of the world.

At the same time, victims from these regions are identified in a wider range of destination countries than victims from other regions.

UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Gwyn Lewis, said, “We must redouble our efforts to seriously and effectively address poverty and systemic inequalities with sustainable, inclusive responses. Those we leave behind are those we surrender to traffickers.”

Abdusattor Esoev, IOM Bangladesh’s Chief of Mission, IOM Bangladesh & Coordination of Bangladesh UN Network on Migration (BDUNNM) said for Bangladesh, trafficking in persons is a growing concern.

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“Data collection and analysis, research, and reports on human trafficking can assist the government, policymakers, and actors in strengthening the evidence-based formulation and implementation of policy and programming to address the causes and factors of human trafficking. The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2022 provides a critical analysis of human trafficking trends at the global, regional, and national levels, which will be instrumental in identifying gaps and challenges and formulating evidence-based strategies and interventions.”

The report illustrates emerging evidence on the nexus between climate change-related disasters and human trafficking.

The significant number of vulnerable individuals in this disaster-prone region allows traffickers to organize large recruitment campaigns.

At the launch event, Khairul Alam Shiekh, Additional Secretary, Public Security Division, Ministry of Home Affairs & Project Director for GLO.ACT-Bangladesh; Maurizio Cian, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh; Bradley Coates, Counsellor (Political and Public Affairs), High Commission of Canada in Bangladesh; Toufiq Islam Shatil, Director General (UN), Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Eurídice Márquez, GLO.ACT Programme Management Officer, UNODC, also participated in the discussion.

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