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COVID 19’s Impact on Human Trafficking Proliferation

Sarah Byrne
March 2020

The most vulnerable among us who are preyed upon for the economic benefit of another -- victims of human trafficking -- just got more vulnerable. It goes without saying that this global public health and economic crisis will touch most industries and systems. Developing and maintaining an effective response to human trafficking ought to remain high priority for our government agencies, schools, healthcare workers, law enforcement, courts and financial service providers. Perpetrators may take advantage of our fragile communities and temporary processes, causing already vulnerable people to become even more susceptible to victimization. 

Decline in access to credit and liquidity will affect companies’ abilities to best support their low wage workers and those in their community who are at risk of victimization. Supply chain vendor contracts may be terminated, leaving some already unprotected workers jobless. Working conditions may decline, further jeopardizing worker protections. 

Self-employed, seasonal, hourly, and irregular workers may be left with little or no employment opportunities – fertile ground for exploitation. This could be mitigated, however, through awareness about the rights and benefits granted through government stimulus programs.

Funding for the non-governmental organizations that support trafficking victims may be at risk in an economic decline. Children out of school leads to significantly greater exposure to the internet; the platform for child sexual exploitation. Child neglect may follow an increase in family poverty, parental addiction, or the demands of working parents with inadequate childcare.

The world is bracing for the impact of this virus but it is vital to stay focused on those among us who are most vulnerable. The indigent, unprotected, abused, neglected, or those battling mental illness may be left behind in the wake of a pandemic. A global crisis requires a global commitment to not lose sight of the fight against human trafficking.