Trends in Human Trafficking – Issue no. 9 – EEPA News Highlights

Dear readers,

The EEPA team is pleased to present the 9th issue of the newsletter on Trends in Human Trafficking between the Greater Horn of Africa and Europe, covering April 2020. Please feel free to forward this information to others or invite them to subscribe via this link. If you have information to contribute, do not hesitate to contact us.

Research & Reports:

 UN Secretary General reports on ongoing human trafficking and smuggling on the Mediterranean Sea
On 6 April, the United Nations Secretary General issued a critical report on the implementation of resolution 2491(2019) which noted increased danger for refugees and migrants in Libya and off the coast of Libya. The report notes among other things that there has been “an increase in the number of refugees and migrants kidnapped for ransom and subjected to torture to extract payment.” Migrants and refugees in boats are continuously pushed back to Libyan ports where they are often sold to human traffickers. “Migrants and refugees, including victims of aggravated migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons, continued to be subjected to arbitrary and indefinite detention upon disembarkation” says the report. The Secretary General expressed deep concern about the impunity of trafficking activities and he called on the authorities involved to ensure protection of migrants and refugees.

New research on human trafficking in conflict
New research by Toby Fenton et al. from Trilateral Research looks at human trafficking in conflict. The researchers observe trafficking as an illicit activity which intensifies conflict and crisis in a country. The article introduces a risk assessment methodology through three key factors – “(a) an assessment of human trafficking prevalence; (b) an assessment of threats and vulnerabilities; and (c) a scenario-based impact assessment”. The authors observe that the assessment of risks related to human trafficking can be supported by evaluation of open data sets. Such data can be used to identify which geographic areas are at higher risk of human trafficking. The research also stated that relevant stakeholders, including military, should cooperate better among themselves in anti-trafficking initiatives.

Research zooms in on modern slavery of migrants and refugees in Libya
A study analysed human rights violations including human trafficking of migrants and refugees while transiting through or residing in Libya. Authors Lady Adaina Ajayi et al. (Covenant University, Nigeria) observed that both state and non-state actors are complicit in violating human rights and committing abuse, including physical, sexual, and verbal assault. Authors further highlight the role of media which acts “as a mediating body between policymakers and migrants”. The study notes that governments whose citizens are being abused in Libya show a lack of interest, which leads to perpetuation of the abuse.

Article highlights importance of including a voice of survivors of human trafficking
An article by author Sue Lockyer (San Francisco State University) focuses on engaging survivors of human trafficking in research, which the author argues should be a central approach to improve anti-trafficking initiatives. Despite growing research on human trafficking only few publications include the perspectives of survivors. Through communicative approaches, the author explores processes such as “valuing the expertise of survivors, [and] engaging survivors in trauma-informed ways”. Lockyer further writes that “[c]entering the expertise of survivors can help to reframe structures of power and authority within anti-trafficking organizations, and inform more effective policies and interventions”.

COVID-19 heightens the exposure of women and girls to human trafficking
A report by CARE International zooms in on new challenges that the novel global pandemic has brought to countries across East, Central and Southern Africa (ECSA). According to key findings of the report, “women and girls are at increased risk of violence during the COVID-19 period”. This risk includes high exposure to human trafficking in ECSA region, not only for host populations but also for refugee populations. The reports states that the highest number of trafficked adults is observed in East Africa. “With COVID-19 creating a climate of fear, women and girls who have been trafficked are less likely than before to come forward and seek medical services or any other help.”

 Media articles:

New fund is allocated to support victims of human trafficking
The UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking has announced new support for 10 NGOs operating across several regions including East, West and North Africa. The Trust Fund aims to “respond exclusively to the immediate needs of human trafficking victims in regions hardest-hit by humanitarian and natural disasters” including the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Trust Fund will be managed and implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The projects will target primarily women, girls, and refugee and migrant populations.

Victims of human trafficking are deported back to Ethiopia
Ethiopians who fell victim to human trafficking networks are returned back to their country by Saudi Arabia amidst global pandemic, reports UNICEF. Many Ethiopians migrate through Djibouti and Saudi Arabia to Yemen where they are abducted by traffickers and exposed to torture until they pay ransom for their release. Due to the current circumstances, returnees including many unaccompanied children have to go through 14-day quarantine in various governmental facilities, before they can be reunited with their families.

Victims of human trafficking extorted for ransom money in Libya
An article by Sally Hayden in The Irish Times exposes the practices of the human traffickers who keep their victims locked in warehouses in Libya. Hundreds of people, mostly Somali, Eritrean and Ethiopian migrants and refugees, are detained in small, overcrowded facilities in uninhabitable and inhumane conditions. The article portrays how torture, rape, extortion of money and killing are daily practices of perpetrators.

Impact of COVID-19 increases vulnerability of trafficked victims
Victims of human trafficking continue to be unprotected amidst COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya as the social distancing and health regulations are impossible to follow.  All Africa reports that beggars on the streets often fall into hands of traffickers. This “preys on beggars with visual, mental and physical disabilities from neighbouring countries” which include Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, as well as Somalia. Meanwhile Capital News expressed concern over “the fate of victims of human trafficking trapped in different nations” whose vulnerability increase due to the economic implications caused by pandemic.