Raising serious concerns about the risks of trafficking for those who were displaced by conflict, including children, a group of United Nations and regional human rights experts have urged the international community to do more to prevent trafficking in all conflicts and protect victims.
“We’ve seen what can be achieved through coordinated action and political will to prevent trafficking in conflict situations,” they said in a statement on the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons to be observed today
Trafficking in persons of all ages is often a tactic used by armed groups, contributing to continued instability, conflict and displacement, hindering processes of peace building, durable solutions to displacement, and transition to peace and security, the experts said.
Refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons are particularly at risk of exploitation, and are frequently the targets of attacks and abductions that lead to trafficking. Continuing restrictions on access to protection, limited resettlement and family reunification, and restrictive migration policies, increase these risks.
The risks of exploitation, occurring in times of conflict, are nothing new. They are linked to and stem from existing, structural inequalities, gender-based and racial discrimination, poverty, and weaknesses in child protection systems. Such structural inequalities are exacerbated in the periods during and after conflicts, and disproportionately affect children.
Trafficking in persons in situations of conflict, including by private actors, continues with impunity with limited monitoring, reporting or investigations and corporate accountability or access to remedies.
The group said they have seen increasing recognition from the Security Council of the link between activities of armed groups and trafficking, particularly targeting children, and trafficking in persons related to sexual violence in conflict.
Child trafficking is closely linked to the grave violations against children in armed conflict, including the recruitment and use of children in abductions, attacks against schools and hospitals, and sexual violence. However, child victims of trafficking in conflict situations rarely receive the assistance, protection, and rehabilitative care that is their right. Denial of humanitarian assistance increases gaps in protection.
Without early identification of victims of trafficking and referral for assistance and protection, victims remain without support and are exposed to the additional risks of being subjected to enforced disappearance and continuing exploitation.
The experts have welcomed the attention given to trafficking in conflict situations, but urged the international community to do more to prevent trafficking in all conflicts and protect victims.
All responses to risks of trafficking in persons must be victim-centred, age and gender sensitive and disability inclusive. Non-governmental organisations, human rights defenders and lawyers assisting trafficked persons and persons at risk of trafficking must be supported and protected in carrying out their legitimate and critical work.
Measures to prevent trafficking in persons must be integrated into the work of all humanitarian and protection actors, in women, peace and security agendas, and in peacebuilding and peacekeeping transition measures. Urgent action is needed to address climate related displacement and conflict, to ensure effective prevention of trafficking in persons.
The experts have called for ensuring that accountability for trafficking in persons in conflict situations is strengthened, including through effective application of international humanitarian law, international criminal law and international human rights law.