Reclaiming the digital space to combat human trafficking and protect its victims

New York, 30 July 2022 – Migrants make up a large proportion of victims of trafficking in persons worldwide, accounting for 65% of victims identified in Western and Southern Europe, 60% in the Middle East, 55% in East Asia and the Pacific, 50% are responsible. in Central and South-Eastern Europe, and 25% in North America. In recent times, the Internet has increasingly been used to advertise false jobs, recruit and exploit these victims.

2022 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons was observed under the theme ‘use and abuse of technology’, The United Nations Network on Migration urges states to fully take advantage of the opportunities presented by technology to strengthen the response to trafficking in persons while ensuring the respect, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of all migrants.

Since COVID-19, traffickers have increasingly adapted their business models to seize the new opportunities offered by advances in technology to perpetuate profit-driven human rights abuses. By shifting the recruitment, control and exploitation of migrants to online platforms and tools, the chances of traffickers being detected are reduced and greater profitability is ensured. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased and expanded the vulnerability of many people due to the increased use of technology in daily life, including children and teens, who are especially at risk as they spend more unprotected time online. . Thus, interventions that promote online safety are important.

Under the Global Agreement for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, States are committed to taking measures to prevent, combat and eliminate the trafficking of persons in the context of international migration, including, in particular, the investigation of trafficking in persons, Includes strengthening the ability to prosecute and punish. Technology can facilitate the detection of crimes committed online and beyond; and enhance human rights protections, as it can be used to monitor, record, store, analyze and facilitate the exchange of information on trafficking in persons. However, such actions should always be implemented in a way that protects human rights, including implementing human rights due diligence measures and complying with data protection standards, privacy and freedom of expression, as well as human rights protections. Including considering the effects. Rights of migrants and victims. The United Nations Global Report on the Trafficking of Persons shows that traffickers use Internet platforms without any physical or geographic boundaries: to advertise exploitative services masked as legitimate activities, to connect with large numbers of potential victims and to exploiting the victims throughout.

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Cross-border smuggling facilitated by technology requires fewer human resources and allows criminals to easily connect, for example, recruiters and enforcers in the countries of origin, transit and destination, to exploit victims at any time. to enable. In this context, internet technologies such as online banking and blockchain technology, including cryptocurrencies, can also increase the risk of illegal international money transfers.

In situations of forced labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking of persons for slavery, migrant workers are sometimes employed through deceptive job advertisements published on bogus websites, or through fake advertisements on legitimate employment portals, job applications and social networking websites. is recruited from, only to find himself. exploitative conditions.

Against this background, the United Nations Network on Migration calls on states to:

  • Expand your efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in technology-facilitated persons
  • Incorporating a human rights-based, gender-responsive and child-sensitive perspective into strategies being developed to address the nexus between technology and trafficking in persons
  • Strengthen the ability of law enforcement officers to conduct effective investigations and operations in cyberspace, ensuring that any use of technology is compliant with human rights law and standards
  • Use firewall measures between national efforts to respond to trafficking in individuals and immigration officials to provide needed protection for migrants in vulnerable situations, while applying the principle of non-punishment to victims of trafficking.
  • Support victims and at-risk individuals by allocating relevant resources to strengthen protection systems, including special services to children, in coordination with national law enforcement
  • Systematically involve victims and those at risk, including children and youth, in the development of technology solutions to combat trafficking in persons
  • Involve communities and at-risk groups and their networks, including parents and teachers, through initiatives to prevent trafficking in persons
  • To amend or introduce national legislation to address technology-facilitated trafficking in persons in accordance with international human rights law
  • Partners with other stakeholders including the private sector, academia, employers, labor organizations and civil society to identify and anchor the response to trafficking in persons in the capacity offered by technology
  • Engage with relevant technology companies to address potential uses of technology for trafficking, including the introduction of due diligence processes in the design and production of new technologies.
  • Improving data collection and research and regulatory responses on the misuse of ICTs to enable the abuse of trafficking in persons, particularly social networks
  • Ensure that data protection standards are respected and the ethical and rights implications of using technological solutions to combat human trafficking are regularly assessed
  • Use technology and innovative tools to enhance international cooperation in addressing the cases of trafficked persons in compliance with international law while ensuring the rights of victims, including access to justice and full compensation.
  • Improve existing state-facilitated digital technology platforms for recruitment, placement and/or job matching for migrant workers
  • Improve digital literacy and ensure workers and employers have access to legitimate digital platforms for recruitment and placement
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Informed technology to keep pace with new and evolving practices of traffickers, including providing aid, assistance and protection to victims, for future success in effectively addressing trafficking in the context of international migration Committed, practical and rights-appropriate use is required. , Similar Internet technologies misused by traffickers can be used to reduce the risk of people becoming victims of online trafficking. The time has come to reclaim the digital space to combat human trafficking and protect its victims.

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Mattias Lindemann


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