One in three known victims of human trafficking is a child, a rise of 5% compared with the period from 2007 to 2010, according to a United Nations report.
Girls make up two out of three child victims and, with women, account for 70% of overall trafficking victims worldwide.
Yury Fedotov, the executive director of the UN office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said: “There is no place in the world where children, women and men are safe from human trafficking. Official data reported to UNODC by national authorities represents only what has been detected. It is very clear that the scale of modern-day slavery is far worse.”
There are around 152 countries of origin and 124 destinations affected by the problem and, as such, no country is immune.
In some regions – such as Africa and the Middle East – child trafficking is a major concern, with children making up 62% of victims, the report says.
Trafficking for forced labour – including in the manufacturing and construction sectors, domestic work and textile production – has also increased steadily over the past five years. About 35% of the detected victims of trafficking for forced labour are female.
The report says there are regional variations: victims in Europe and Central Asia are mostly trafficked for sexual exploitation, whereas in East Asia and the Pacific forced labour drives the market. In the Americas, the two types are found in almost equal measure.
The most worrying aspect, says the report, is the lack of impetus and convictions. In 40 percent of countries there were few or no convictions and over the past decade there has been no significant increase in the criminal justice response, leaving a significant portion of the population vulnerable.
“Even if most countries criminalise trafficking, many people live in countries with laws which are not in compliance with international standards that would afford them full protection, such as the Trafficking in Persons Protocol.” Mr. Fedotov said.
“This needs to change. Every country needs to adopt the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the protocol and commit themselves to the full implementation of their provisions.”