• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Explainer: How to identify a human trafficker

Explainer: How to identify a human trafficker

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) had in 2021 predicted that COVID-19-induced recession was likely to expose more people to the risk of trafficking.

The share of children among detected trafficking victims has tripled while the share of boys has increased five times in the past 15 years. Girls are mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation, while boys are used for forced labour, according to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, launched by UNODC in 2021.

Nigeria is not an exception, as the Nigeria Immigration Service said that in recent times, it had identified and arrested some top facilitators of human traffickers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

A top official at the services said following the continual record of syndicate trying to traffic young girls out of Nigeria illegally through the Lagos airport, the command had put modalities in place to tackle human trafficking at the airport and ensure the country’s border remains secure.

Nigeria has continued to be a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labour and forced prostitution.

Human traffickers have continued to deploy strategies to lure vulnerable people into believing that employment has been secured for them.

Nigerian network

According to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, besides trafficking in human beings, Nigerian networks are known to be active in other criminal businesses such as corruption, migrant smuggling, counterfeiting of documents and money laundering.

Nigerian groups are well-organised both geographically and logistically and are able to mobilise a large number of human resources. One of their main strengths is their distribution in hubs along the trafficking route, from Nigeria to transit and destination countries, and the support of personal contacts carrying out various activities linked to the trafficking business.

The long-established presence of the Nigerian Organized Crime and Gang Section in the EU has given them an insight into law enforcement methods and a good understanding of how to misuse legal immigration channels (in particular the asylum mechanism, which they abuse both to traffic their victims and to legalise their status).

This is shown by the many trafficking in human beings (THB) suspects who either hold legal residence permits, are currently asylum applicants, or former asylum seekers.

Entry points

According to a recent report by Europol titled ‘Criminal networks involved in the trafficking and exploitation of underage victims’, southern EU member states, such as Italy and Spain, are main entry points for trafficked Nigerians, who are then forced into prostitution.

Other entry points for human traffickers include Austria, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

According to UNODC, the most common form of human trafficking detected by national authorities is trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and more recent data show an increase in the detection of trafficking for forced labour and other forms of exploitation.

Identifying human traffickers

Jessica Ebrard, a representative of UNODC, said COVID-19 had had a drastic economic effect, which had led to loss of jobs, making more people vulnerable to be trafficked out of Nigeria.

According to her, traffickers disguise themselves as helpers to victims, whom they promise job opportunities and greener pastures outside the country, only to be trafficked for purposes of drug trade, servitudes, prostitution and organ harvesting, among others.

She noted that globalisation allowed trafficking networks to set up complex routes and systems within and across borders.

Ebrard said the presence of these complex channels created a challenge because prosecuting one trafficker might only minimally disrupt the network of traffickers.

Read also: NIS arrests top facilitators of human trafficking at Lagos airport

She added that reports had shown that a high number of victims of trafficking were recruited through social media and other online technology.

According to the Europol report, trafficking networks are mainly composed of members sharing the same nationality or ethnic ties, and they mostly target victims of the same nationality.

The report also has it that female suspects play a key role in the trafficking and exploitation of minors, much more than in criminal networks that traffic adult victims.

It said, “When the victims of trafficking are young girls, the younger traffickers are mainly male and applying the lover boy method. Most EU traffickers have a criminal background in their country of origin or in other EU member states, mainly in relation to property crimes, drug trafficking or fraud.

“Traffickers regularly engage victims’ families in the recruitment process or target children hosted in facilities such as orphanages and foster homes.”

Non-EU trafficked children are transported into Europe via air or sea, frequently with the involvement of smuggling networks. Transport within EU territory occurs mainly on land, using private vehicles or public transport.

In some EU member states, traffickers exploit minor victims in legal businesses such as brothels, red-light districts and sex clubs. The online advertisement of sexual services is an increasing phenomenon relating to THB for sexual exploitation, with children being advertised as adults.

The report also has it that document fraud has continued to be an essential component in the trafficking of minors. Traffickers often seize victims’ documents and provide them with fake identities to conceal their real age.