• Hadi Shabbir

Human Trafficking During the Pandemic

Updated: Jun 5, 2021


Contrary to what many have hoped, instances of human trafficking have risen during the pandemic. According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. In a study done by Polaris, the operator of the U.S National Human Trafficking Hotline, the number of trafficking cases handled by the hotline increased by more than 40 percent in the month following the shelter-in-place orders. If anything, many experts expected that the pandemic would lead to a decrease in cases of human trafficking.


Factors causing the rise of human trafficking cases include the lack of social or economic opportunities and limited labor protections, which can lead to homelessness. In addition, disruption to victim assistance programs means that those seeking help are not able to receive it.

With law enforcement capability being limited or exhausted during the pandemic, many trafficking cases are going unresolved. Unstable housing and runaway homeless youth are also factors, with homeless people being at risk for trafficking.


Ryna Sherazi, Spokeswoman for Anti-Slavery International, stated: “Lockdowns have also meant that survivors have been unable to access rehabilitation, welfare and support services vital to their recovery. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and charities are struggling with increased need for their services, while coping with less funding.”


Sara Thornton, Britain’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, stated: “Rising unemployment, homelessness and lack of access to social security systems further contribute to an environment in which exploitation can flourish.”


In case you feel like you’re in danger, you should follow these Safety Tips:

  • Trust your judgment. If a situation/individual makes you uncomfortable, trust that feeling.

  • Let a trusted friend or relative know if you feel like you are in danger or if a person or situation is suspicious.

  • Always let a trusted individual know where you are.

  • If possible, set up safety words with a trusted friend/relative.

  • Keep important numbers at all times, including the number of someone you feel safe contacting if you are in trouble.

  • Make sure that you have a means of communication, access to your bank account, and any medication that you might need with you at all times.

  • If you think you might be in immediate danger or you are experiencing an emergency, contact 9-1-1 first.


The pandemic has led to a sizable uptick in human trafficking, and traffickers are taking advantage of the situation. With the government focused on the pandemic, less resources are being deployed to help those in need, including human trafficking victims. It is recommended to always be cautious and aware of your surroundings since contrary to expert’s original beliefs, instances of human trafficking have only increased.


National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888

Email: help@humantraffickinghotline.org

 

Speaking Plainly:

  • Instances of human trafficking have increased during the pandemic.

  • Lockdowns have caused a rise in human trafficking, especially impacting those who are homeless or need access to mental health help and essential resources.

  • Being aware of particular safety tips can be helpful in dangerous situations, especially in the wake of increased trafficking.