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World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – 30 July 2020 (Kim Ann Williamson)

I am pleased that I can write my first blog for SIGBI for World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the global awareness raising initiative against human trafficking. As I type I am very aware that a victim will have been subject to human trafficking or been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is the significance of World Day against Trafficking in Persons?

In 2013 the General Assembly held a high-level meeting to appraise the Global Plan of Action. Member states also adopted resolution A/RES/68/192 and designated 30 July as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This resolution declared that such a day was necessary to raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights. In addition, the Global Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration was adopted by the General Assembly in 2018. “This is a non-legally binding agreement that reaffirms the foundational principles of our global community, including national sovereignty and universal human rights, while pointing the way toward humane and sensible action to benefit countries of origin, transit and destination as well as migrants themselves.”

What are some Soroptimist successes to raise awareness of human trafficking?

The first Soroptimist international sticker was spotted on the back of a Croatian truck. SI Canterbury have been working with John Shirley Ltd to secure the support of as many long-haul trucks and lorries companies as possible to display the human trafficking sticker to raise awareness.

SIGBI Modern Slavery Booklet created in 2018 continues to be circulated to raise awareness.

The UKPAC Modern Slavery Survey conducted in 2017 continues to be used to highlight that the public awareness of human trafficking still needs to be strengthened.

What is this year’s theme for World Day against Trafficking in Persons?

This year’s theme for the World Day against Trafficking in Persons is to focus on the first responders to human trafficking. That includes us, as we continue to identify, support and seek justice for victims of human trafficking around the globe. Today is a day when we have an opportunity to celebrate the work, we have done so far but also acknowledge there is still so much we have yet to achieve.

The Coronavirus has been a global pandemic, changing the lives of individuals and families forever. Human trafficking is also a global issue. Many countries have national human trafficking laws which are in line with the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. However, as we know, human beings continue to be exploited every minute of every day, targeted by traffickers who ruthlessly prey on the vulnerable and use them as a commodity. They also have no respect for borders and move their victims across localities and countries.

So today is a day where we come together to continue to educate others across the world…

Like any pandemic, Coronavirus has created far reaching consequences to our daily life which may change our lives for many years to come. Restrictions were imposed, resulting in us being locked down in our homes and unable to visit family, friends and preventing us from travelling locally, nationally and internationally.  This has also had an adverse impact on the support of victims of human trafficking. The effect of Covid-19 on women has been reported by the UN. At the launch of the report the Secretary General, António Guterres said “Today we are launching a report that shows how COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights – and recommends ways to put women’s leadership and contributions at the heart of resilience and recovery.” This addresses issues on which we do much work – pay disparity, health, unpaid care work and gender-based violence.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Impact of the Covid 19 Pandemic on Trafficking in Persons – Preliminary findings and messaging based on rapid stocktaking has highlighted that:

While at first sight, these enforcement measures and increased police presence at the borders and on the streets seem to dissuade crime, they may also drive it further underground. In trafficking in persons, criminals are adjusting their business models to the ‘new normal’ created by the pandemic, especially through the abuse of modern communications technologies. At the same time, COVID-19 impacts the capacity of state authorities and non-governmental organizations to provide essential services to the victims of this crime. Most importantly, the pandemic has exacerbated and brought to the forefront the systemic and deeply entrenched economic and societal inequalities that are among the root causes of human trafficking.

As Coronavirus continues to grip the world’s economy, jobs will continue to be lost, poverty will increase and the vulnerability of human beings will be even greater than we have seen in many years. This will enable traffickers to continue to exploit this and prey on those whose lives have been so badly affected.

As an example of where exploitation takes place, during 2020 the Modern Slavery Helpline indicated that 452 potential victims of modern slavery were working in beauty salons and nail bars. Lockdown closed all of these businesses as well as hospitality, hotels, car washes and construction. Where have all of the victims gone?

As lockdown ceases and businesses reopen, we must once again become vigilant and look out for the signs of human trafficking.

What can we all do to mark today’s event?

To raise awareness today and continue the fight to eradicate this heinous crime I encourage you to do the following:

These small steps can make such a difference. I have stated for many years – ‘You may only have one chance to save the life of a trafficking victim’

Please use the hashtags #EndHumanTrafficking and #Human Trafficking when using social media.

Kim Ann Williamson
SI Cardiff and District

Read Carol Infanti’s post