Over half of world’s child trafficking victims trafficked within own country: Report

Analysis recommends engagement in special cooperative measures on counter-trafficking and climate change, as well as on crisis preparedness and response  

By Zumbish
Published: Sunday 09 July 2023
Over half of world’s child trafficking victims trafficked within own country: Report
Photo from iStock for representation Photo from iStock for representation

Over half of child trafficking victims across the world are trafficked within their own country, according to a new report.

The report, titled From Evidence to Action: Twenty Years of IOM Child Trafficking Data to Inform Policy and Programming, was prepared by International Organization for Migration (IOM) and François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

The report was published on the IOM website on June 5, 2023. It is based on the analysis of extensive, globally sourced data, using the IOM Victims of Trafficking Database (VoTD).

The VoTD is the largest available international database of individual victims of trafficking. It contains primary data collected from approximately 69,000 victims of human trafficking.

These victims belong to 156 nationalities and were trafficked in 186 countries. They registered with IOM in 113 countries where the Organization works.  

About 18.3 per cent of VoTDs in the database were children.

What the report unearths

Child trafficking victims come from all backgrounds and genders, according to the report. Some 57.4 per cent of child victims were female and 42.6 per cent were male according to the dataset.

The report noted that no age range is immune to child trafficking. Child victims ranged from 0 to 17 years old, it added.

Children aged 13-17 formed the largest group of child victims (46.6 per cent), based on the age reported at the time of IOM registration.

A small but significant percentage of child victims (12.6 per cent) were aged between 0 and 2 years old at the time of IOM registration, indicating that these victims were likely born into trafficking.

Close to half of the child victims of trafficking (43.4 per cent) were being trafficked for forced labour (mainly boys), in a wide range of industries, such as domestic work, begging and agriculture.

Sexual exploitation, including through prostitution, pornography, and sexual servitude, is also prominent, affecting 20 per cent of trafficked children, predominantly girls.    

The report noted that victims trafficked for sexual exploitation were commonly trafficked internationally, while those trafficked for forced labour were more likely to be trafficked domestically.

In cases of international trafficking, children are mostly trafficked to neighbouring, wealthier countries, according to the report.   

Child victims reported being exploited in domestic work (14.5 per cent), begging (10.2 per cent), hospitality (3.4 per cent) and agriculture (3.3 per cent). Female child victims are more likely to report sexual exploitation (30.3 per cent) than male child victims (7.3 per cent).

About 37.3 per cent of child victims originating from Europe and Central Asia were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Over 56.9 per cent of identified child victims had been trafficked within their country of origin.

The report also noted that recruiters — individuals or groups that introduce victims to the situation that leads to trafficking — are often close to child victims.

More than half of the child victims reported the involvement of friends and family in their recruitment into trafficking (37.4 per cent and 14.7 per cent, respectively; 51.1 per cent, taken together).

Family and friends play an important role in the recruitment of children in countries where either widespread or localised extreme poverty is common.

Following the recruitment of the victim, an enmeshment process is typically used to ensure the prolonged exploitation of the victim and to prevent their exit from the trafficking process.

False promises were the most common means of control reported by children (58.9 per cent), followed by psychological and physical abuse (56.3 per cent and 50.6 per cent, respectively).

Use of threats against the victims (39.5 per cent), as well as the use of excessive working hours to control them (36.5 per cent), were also reported by a sizeable share of child victims.

The report recommended engagement in special cooperative measures on counter-trafficking and climate change, as well as on crisis preparedness and response.

It suggested the following:

Integrating counter-trafficking into climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes, including during preparedness and response to disasters, with tailored programmes to address the vulnerability of children to trafficking.  

Empowering communities affected by climate change, environmental degradation and disasters to develop community-based mitigation strategies aimed at reducing human trafficking.

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