The Internet has become a vital lifeline as the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted travel and kept people apart. But the advantages and potential of digital technologies to bring us together and better our lives are also being increasingly exploited by criminals.
This year’s theme for the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – “Use and abuse of technology” – focuses on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and stop human trafficking. For people on the move, online resources can become a trap, especially when it comes to phony travel arrangements and fake job offers targeting vulnerable groups.
The 2020 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, reported that the use of internet has been integrated into the business model of traffickers and it facilitates ensnaring victims into sexual exploitation, forced labour and other forms of exploitations. Through the internet, traffickers easily gain access to an increased pool of customers, particularly sex buyers. One court case is particularly illustrative: a single trafficker, working alone, managed to sexually exploit and connect one victim with over 100 sex buyers over a period of 60 days using online advertisement.
The Executive Director of UNODC, Ms. Ghada Waly, in her message on World Day Against Trafficking In Persons highlighted how traffickers uses technology due to the borderless nature of information and communications technologies which enables traffickers to expand their reach and profits with even greater impunity.
As part of build-up of events in Nigeria towards the World Day against trafficking in persons, UNODC, FIIAP, Expertise France and IOM under the overall coordination of NAPTIP, concluded a 5-day bootcamp for state task forces on human trafficking. The purpose of which was to enhance cross-fertilisation of information amongst the state task forces and between NAPTIP and the state task forces on collaborative efforts to address human trafficking at the state and community level.
Speaking at the event, the Country Representative of UNODC, Oliver Stolpe, emphasised the need for cooperation between state and non-state actors to enhance capability to collect and share intelligence and develop “protocols for action.
In Nigeria, state task forces on human trafficking embarked on series of sensitization and awareness campaigns through road shows, school sensitizations, high-level advocacy visits to government to amplify the message of combatting human trafficking.
At the press conference to flag-off activities to commemorate the 2022World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, stated that the agency has rescued many Nigerian girls who fell victims of fake online jobs. Many of them fell into the nets of traffickers after paying enrolment fee and travelled abroad. They arrived their destination to realize that there was neither school nor scholarship which were promised in the deceptive advertorials.
She stated that: “The internet provides easy access to a larger pool of potential victims because geographical limitations no longer exist, thereby increasing the ease with which traffickers can locate and recruit their victims; control and organize transportation for victims, communicate amongst perpetrators, and hide criminal proceeds.” She further disclosed that with over 70,000 reports on online trafficking, the Agency is working in partnership with Facebook in order to enhance tracing and diligent investigation of traffickers.