human trafficking during COVID-19The United Nations has warned of a recent increase in human trafficking taking place through social media. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) perpetrators are approaching victims on social media and messaging platforms. Experts correlate this surge of online human trafficking with the lockdowns governments have implemented to combat COVID-19 that has left millions of people jobless and struggling to survive.

The Human Trafficking Crisis

Human trafficking has long posed a threat to the safety and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The U.N. has stated that between 2017 and 2018, approximately 75,000 trafficking victims were identified in 110 countries. During this period, 70% of victims were female, 77% of whom were then trafficked for sexual exploitation and 14% for forced labor.

There are several factors that make a person more vulnerable to human trafficking. The most pressing factor, however, is financial struggles or poverty.

Online Human Trafficking and COVID-19

Human trafficking is on the rise as millions are made desperate by the economic consequences of COVID-19. People employed in informal sectors have been particularly impacted by layoffs, while earlier this year migrant workers were left stranded far from home when borders closed and travel bans were implemented. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic will result in global extreme poverty increasing for the first time in two decades, pushing as many as 150 million people into poverty by 2021.

The impact, however, will be felt the hardest by females. As a result of the pandemic, 47 million more women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty. Estimates even predict that globally, for every 100 men living in poverty in 2030, there could be as many as 121 women.

Besides  COVID-19’s economic consequences, traffickers have also benefited from the fact that people are spending more time online during lockdowns. While traffickers have usually operated with a great deal of impunity, the internet allows for easier access to vulnerable populations as well as the benefits of anonymity and false identities.

Addressing Human Trafficking During COVID-19

Human trafficking is a global problem but despite the scale of the threat and the advantages that perpetrators have during COVID-19, governments can take action to protect vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.

In an appeal to social media and messaging companies, CEDAW recommended that safety controls be set up to reduce the risk of exposing women and girls to trafficking and sexual exploitation. CEDAW has called upon online platforms to use data, artificial intelligence and analytics to identify possible patterns that could lead to trafficking. It also urges platforms to “put in place the appropriate governance structure and procedures which will allow them to be reactive in their response and provide the relevant level of information to the concerned authorities.”

CEDAW also urged governments to resolve the underlying issues that allow human trafficking to flourish. These issues include sex-based discrimination, economic insecurity, conflict and unsafe conditions for migrants and displaced people.

In addition, the United Nations has urged national governments to ensure that services for trafficking victims and survivors stay open during lockdowns and that the rights of migrant and informal workers are protected by labor laws. Finally, investments in programs for women’s economic empowerment are encouraged as a means of mitigating the disproportionate economic impacts on females. With the appropriate measures in place, human trafficking during COVID-19 can be prevented.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Instability, lack of resources and political corruption are driving everyday people into the “security” of terrorist groups. Most people have a specific understanding of a certain classification of terrorists. These are people in the third world or corrupt countries clinging to radical ideas and concepts of violence and revolution. These individuals are often unable to participate politically in their countries and therefore turn to drastic means in order to have their opinions voiced, which eventually leads to violence.

However, many people are unaware of the influx of people in western countries that are continuing to join such organizations. These include affluent European and American men and women, seeking acceptance in radical terrorist organizations around the world.

In recent years, there has been a particular increase in European women joining terrorist organizations that are established in the Middle East, such as ISIS. What could possibly motivate someone from the western world to join such groups?

In the last year, there have been a number of instances in which Americans were found to be supporting ISIS, both financially and otherwise. While this in itself is frightening, the biggest concern here is that of national security, especially in the United States. What is it that draws people into the group?

What people want is a sense of identity and purpose. As is the case with terrorist recruits in developing nations, individuals in the United States and other Western nations join groups like ISIS as a means for significance and a political voice.

Issues of unemployment and economic insecurity contribute to these motives. As people feel the brunt of economic tensions, they blame the government and often feel helpless when it comes to making a difference politically. Thus, joining a radical group, whose name is seen throughout various modes of information and social media, seems to be a surefire way to be heard.

It is the struggle and disparity that draws people to radical means for change. As examples of Americans and Europeans showing interest in terrorist groups such as ISIS have shown, radicalization can happen under any type of government or societal structure, and in any country. To protect national and international security, and to prevent individuals from radicalizing and seeking a voice elsewhere, it seems that people need a voice that is going to be heard in their home country.

– Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: CNN, BBC
Photo: The Dark Room