Did you know that child trafficking has been a terrible problem in our society for generations? Technology and other tools have only increased the ability of traffickers to prey on vulnerable children. The deterioration in economic conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the number of children who are vulnerable to traffickers, with families desperate for money tricked into believing in “opportunities” for their children who become victims of trafficking schemes.
In the midst of a global pandemic, children seem to be more at risk than ever of being victims in human trafficking schemes. Children who were previously living in shelters that may have closed due to the pandemic find themselves at the mercy of those who offer to take them in. If their parents have passed away due to complications of Covid-19, they may now be orphans without family members to look out for them. There may be any number of pandemic-related situations in which a child could become more vulnerable to traffickers.
Young women, in particular those who were living away from their families to earn money either as domestic workers or in the fashion and beauty industry, can be at a particularly high risk, not just for child trafficking but also for sex trafficking. Schemes such as predators posting as landlords offering rooms specifically for young women in exchange for sex, known as sextortion for rent, have recently come to light.
Remember that recruitment of child victims can happen without a child ever leaving home. Children tethered to a screen for online learning may venture onto the internet and run into predators who reach out solely through online portals, including widely used social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
To help victims of child trafficking, one of the best things you can do may be to raise awareness of the problem. There can be many ways to prevent child trafficking and help its victims. For example, keep an eye on the children around you, whether they are your own or the children of friends. If a child in your life is isolated due to the pandemic, offer to be a social support so he or she does not turn to strangers online. You can also take the opportunity of the pandemic to get children involved in helping their peers by organizing a socially distant or online-only human trafficking awareness event to raise money for child victims. The more you educate the children around you, the more likely they are to be able to speak up when they see the signs that a peer is succumbing to traffickers.
Our office remains committed to fighting the pervasive human trafficking problem. For more information on how you can help, please reach out to us any time.