Increased Rate Of Human Trafficking Due To COVID-19

Aaliyah Barlotta, Staff Writer

              Experts have recently warned that the coronavirus pandemic could increase the
occurrence of human trafficking worldwide. As vulnerable individuals seek shelter, criminals may exploit the situation.
              According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the system for both stopping trafficking and helping victims has been “seriously hindered” as authorities redirect money and energy into resources for COVID-19 and enforce lockdowns around the continent. Due to the pandemic, millions have been forced out of jobs, including undocumented workers who may be excluded from healthcare systems and have no choice of returning to their countries of origin, causing them to be more susceptible to exploitation.
             Due to the use of masks and having less access to healthcare, the human trafficking rates have significantly increased. The identification process is much more difficult. Before masks, it was already difficult to identify victims and predators, mostly because victims are continuously being exploited in illegal and unregulated zones. Examples include sex industries, petty crime, and drug cultivation. Identifying both victims and predators of human trafficking and exploitation is even more strenuous now since we are forced to cover most of our face with
a mask. Most of the exploitation is hidden in plain sight, as victims are too afraid to speak out about their situation or even to seek help.
             During this time of worldwide anticipation and fear, even if victims were to seek medical attention, they would effectively be prevented from doing so. Patients with Covid-19 are number one priority in almost every medical center around the world, meaning that patients with less severe conditions would be on hold to get treated. Even though victims of exploitation and human trafficking would seem like a top priority, they are put into the group with people of ’less severe issues,’ and
therefore would have to wait. That is if victims are even eligible to be treated. Most victims lack the healthcare that they need in order to afford the treatment for any health issues that could possibly result from trafficking.
              From the garment market, to the production of agriculture, to the millions of
people who were already living in poverty and working for local jobs or manufacturing
industries, countless individuals have lost their salaries. Those who continue to work
in these industries, in which there is regular detection of trafficking, may do so out of
economic necessity. People who continue to work in these conditions are also more exposed to exploitation because of economic hardships.
             As a result of schools being shut down, children in particular have recently been
exposed to exploitation and human trafficking, since they have been deprived of some of the only food source, shelter, and protective services that they once possessed. School was one of the main places where children were
able to get away. Whether it was being able to escape a toxic household, eat a hot meal,
socialize with other people, or even stay safe in dangerous weather conditions, school
was a refuge for many. These opportunities are now taken away due to Covid-19, thus making children more vulnerable for exploitation and human trafficking.
             Covid-19 has become a global crisis for most countries. However, in the dark corners of the world, vulnerable children and immigrants are also suffering from efforts of lockdown.