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'Human trafficking is like a global pandemic'

“Human trafficking is like a global pandemic,” said Pierre-Alain Fridez (Switzerland, SOC), Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, on the eve of the World Day against Trafficking in Human Beings held on 30 July. “None of us – neither governments, parliaments nor citizens can ignore the thousands of victims of human trafficking”.

“When borders were closed and citizens were confined to their homes, a large number of victims faced serious difficulties, dangers and problems. As borders were closed, some were trafficked along even more dangerous routes; others, such as those forced into prostitution or modern slavery in farming, were abandoned by traffickers as there was no longer any work, and trafficked victims were sometimes left homeless and without any means of support. Most of these victims are irregular migrants whose status makes them even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse”.

“The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the opening of national borders do not remedy the human suffering of trafficked persons. The global economic downturn resulting from the pandemic will increase the pressure on people brought about by poverty to put themselves or their children at risk of exploitation and trafficking. It is imperative to show zero tolerance for a culture where foreigners, especially women and children, are considered inferior and therefore open to such exploitation”.

“As stated in PACE Resolution 2323 (2020) on Concerted action against human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants, member states must increase their efforts to put an end to the impunity that often prevails for human traffickers and their customers. States must implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the recommendations of its Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), and include in their strategies non-European states that are transit countries for trafficked persons smuggled into Europe.

Trafficking in human beings is like a global pandemic that must be stopped at international level in order to save what the UN estimates at hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of undocumented victims. The Parliamentary Assembly is ready to take an active part in this endeavour,” concluded Pierre-Alain Fridez.