Covid-19 pandemic boosts childhood and adolescent trafficking risks

Ilustrative Photo: Marlon Hernandez.
Editorial Dept. Voz de la Diaspora

The international organization Educo warns about the potential increase in risk factors of trafficking for children and adolescents due to the global health crisis by Covid-19. The evident affectation to health, containment measures that negatively impact the economy of thousands of families, stress versus the uncertainty of the immediate future, domestic violence, as well as the increased use of virtual media, makes them more vulnerable to this crime.

"The obligation that children, girls and adolescents remain in their homes, although it constitutes a biosecurity measure, it does not always mean an effective protection measure against other risks such as violence in the family or exposure to situations of recruitment for trafficking or abuse and exploitation online ”, afirmó Nancy Ale Olguin, Protejeres coordinator at Educo Bolivia.

Children and adolescents have seen their personal networks broken and their access to school is limited, which is an educational space, but protection and even food. In some cases, To make up for this absence, a massive increase in the use of virtual media has been generated., with inherent risks associated with ignorance or misuse of these. In many other cases in developing countries, from an early age they must take an active role in the support of their families; phenomenon that also warns the United Nations Organization against Drugs and Crime (UNODC 2020) “More boys and girls are being forced to take to the streets in search of food and income, which increases their exploitation risk ”.

"All this leads to the groups of traffickers developing a series of strategies to access this population that increases their vulnerability, "Reinventing" and "updating" its methods of recruitment and exploitation. On the one hand, taking advantage of financial difficulties or helplessness, offer deceptive forms of remuneration, power or protection, they have no other purpose than to capture new victims. On the other hand, the fact of remaining in the homes also exposes to risks of capture or “hooking” or even the exploitation itself through many covert ways in the virtual media, be it games, social networks or random pages ”, explained the expert from Educo.

The modalities and processes involved, in terms of origin, transit and destination make Human Trafficking a global impact phenomenon. Sexual exploitation and forced labor are the predominant forms of human trafficking, representing around the 90% of the identified cases (UNDOC). The remaining percentage of captured victims are exploited for organ trafficking purposes, child begging, forced marriages or recruitment for armed conflict.

All this should call us to collective concern, for the impact that this problem represents in terms of the guarantee of human rights and the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development goals (ODS) we have set as a global conglomerate, and in particular the goal of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private sectors, including trafficking and sexual exploitation and other forms of exploitation. “Ensure that girls, children and adolescents are safe and protected, even in the most difficult and complex times, it is everyone's responsibility. The dialogue, respect and good treatment will always be essential for homes to be safe places and information and knowledge are elements that will help us in this purpose ”, Nancy Alé mentions.

In Bolivia, Educo implements the Weaving Safe Networks - Protejeres Program with the support of the Spanish Cooperation and in association with CEADL, Munasim Kullakita Foundation and Stars on the Street Foundation. Protejeres carries out training activities for girls, children and adolescents, as well as favors care in cases of survivors. Generate synergies with civil society actors, public and private entities, so that together and based on a principle of co-responsibility, advocacy and awareness actions are promoted around this problem.

On the other hand, recognizing that irregular migration can generate an increase in this scourge; Educo, junto al ChildFund Alliance, run the CONFÍO project to prevent irregular migration of girls, children and adolescents in Central America and Mexico, which involved nearly 254.000 young boys.