Symbolic image

Human trafficking has increased in Bangladesh and the Philippines after millions of people were displaced by devastating cyclones and typhoons. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said so in a report on Tuesday.

Criminal gangs are exploiting a growing number of uprooted people, the agency said, looking at the causes behind climate-related disasters leading to human trafficking. UNODC has also identified the war in Ukraine as another risk factor for human trafficking.

Many have lost their habitats due to droughts and floods in Ghana and the Caribbean. Climate change is essentially increasing the risk of trafficking. While a systematic global analysis of the impact of climate change on human trafficking is lacking, community-level studies in different parts of the world point to weather-related disasters as a key driver of human trafficking, the report said.

The report is based on data collected from 2017 to 2020 for 141 countries and analysis of 800 court cases. The impact of climate change has ‘disproportionately’ affected poor farming, fishing and other communities that depend primarily on natural resource extraction for their livelihoods, the report said.

‘Once deprived of their means of livelihood and forced to flee their communities,’ Fabrizio Sarica, the report’s lead author, told a press briefing. People became easy prey for traffickers.

In 2021 alone, climate-related disasters internally displaced more than 23.7 million people. Many others have fled their countries entirely. As entire regions of the world are at risk of becoming ‘increasingly uninhabitable’, millions of people will face ‘a high risk of exploitation on the migration route’.

Most of the people trafficked due to conflict are citizens of various countries in Africa and the Middle East. At the same time, millions of people have fled the country due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine is creating another potentially dangerous situation.

Elias Chatzis, head of UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Unit, told the French news agency AFP, “Combating human trafficking is now a challenge because of war and instability.” He said, in the case of Ukraine, it is important to increase the assistance of neighboring countries and support to the Ukrainian authorities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult to identify victims of trafficking in low-income countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa, the report said.

(January 24)