UNODC Launches Global Initiative to Combat Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants

PeopleOther ♦ Published: April 22, 2024; 20:42 ♦ (Vindobona)

At a time of global challenges such as war, large-scale migration and refugee flows, increasing cybercrime, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic, human trafficking and migrant smuggling have become a multi-billion dollar business. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna has presented a new global initiative to combat these problems.

Despite the Ukraine conflict, UNODC highlighted the positive examples of social assistance, job opportunities, and protection provided to Ukrainian refugees and the prevention of migrant smuggling. / Picture: © Mirek Pruchnicki from Przemyśl, Sanok, Polska, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Ilias Chatzis, the head of the UNODC's Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Unit, pointed out that the progress made so far in combating these crimes is being jeopardized by new challenges. "Over the past two decades, there has been relative optimism that we could win the fight against human trafficking and smuggling globally. But recent global developments have changed the situation dramatically," explained Chatzis during a press conference.

New strategy against people smuggling

The UNODC's new strategy covers several key areas: First, it emphasizes the link between human trafficking, smuggling, and other forms of organized crime such as cybercrime, money laundering, drug and arms trafficking, and corruption. A particular focus is on the fight against child trafficking, with more than 30 percent of identified victims worldwide being minors. The UNODC plans to increase efforts to identify and protect victims and prioritize the fight against child exploitation.

In addition, the UNODC will expand its presence on the ground in the most affected countries. The deployment of resident experts is intended to strengthen the capacities of local authorities and improve the conduct of investigations, prosecutions, and the protection of victims. "Our goal is to create a more robust and responsive infrastructure to combat these crimes by being directly present in the countries that need our support the most," Chatzis added.

Another important aspect of the UNODC initiative is the emphasis on sustainable development and gender equality. The UNODC recognizes that protecting the most vulnerable populations, including women and children, is critical to breaking the cycle of crime.

Ukraine as a positive example

Chatzis highlighted the international response to the Ukraine conflict as a positive example of successful action. According to the UNODC, the comprehensive support of Ukrainian refugees with social assistance, job opportunities, and protection has helped to prevent an increase in human trafficking. "This shows that preventive measures and international cooperation are crucial to effectively combat human trafficking in times of crisis," said Chatzis.

The UNODC's fight against these specific crimes has been ongoing for over two decades, since the adoption of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols. With near universal ratification of these instruments, UNODC is at the forefront, supported by a global community determined to combat and ultimately eradicate these serious crimes.