NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 8 – Kenya is among the 148 countries where more people are at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, according to the latest report by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The increase in human trafficking is attributed to the vulnerability of victims reeling in the economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic which has brought the world almost to a halt since last year.
The UNODC Global report on trafficking in persons released on February 7, notes that 50,000 people were trafficked to different destinations between 2017 and 2018 with projections of an upsurge of victims made vulnerable due to massive job losses, increasing levels of poverty and the harsh economy necessitated by the pandemic.
“The sharp increase in unemployment rates brought about by the COVID-19
pandemic is likely to increase trafficking in persons, particularly from countries experiencing the fastest and most persistent drops in employment. Job seekers from these countries are likely to be more willing to take high risks in the hope of improving their opportunities,” the report states.
Though, the increase doesn’t show if it is an increase in human trafficking or due to increased detection and reporting of trafficking, the number of perpetrators charged for such offences considerably shot up.
According to the report, trafficking syndicates vary from organized groups to individual criminals with the later taking a lead based on the number of suspects charged for human trafficking which shows that 142 and 148 people were arrested for trafficking in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Out of the 142 suspects, 68 were convicted in 2017 and 61 in 2018.
Majority of those convicted for human trafficking were Ethiopians who had trafficked 227 victims followed by Nepalese taking responsibility for 21 victims, Libyans (13), Indians (9) and then South Sudan (7).
Majority of victims of trafficking found in Kenya were Ethiopians which is also a destination country for victims from Uganda. The report further found that Kenyans are trafficked to the Maldives.
Saudi Arabia as a destination country has majority of victims from Yemen and high numbers from Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with an indication that victims from East Africa form 41% of victims trafficked to the Middle East for forced labour and sexual exploitation.
In the report, UNODC cites increased vulnerability among children in low-income countries with estimates that they account for almost half (46%) of the victims of human trafficking. According to the report children are ‘trafficked mainly for sexual exploitation, forced criminality or begging’.
Majority of the victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation (50%), while those trafficked for forced labour follow closely at 38% and others for criminal activity, begging, forced marriages and organ removal.
Women constitute the highest number of victims trafficked for labor exploitation and are exposed to ‘multiple forms of exploitation and violence including sexual, physical, and psychological abuse.’
Last year, Kenyan Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) raised a red flag over new tactics employed by traffickers to lure victims during the coronavirus pandemic. Trace Kenya Executive Officer, Paul Adhoch, expressed concerns that the unfolding global economic recession that came with the pandemic would see an increase in the number of victims yearning for an escape from joblessness.
Judie Kaberia is a fellow of the Resilience Fund of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime