The trend of human trafficking crime under the new crown pneumonia epidemic and INTERPOL’s response strategy

  Human trafficking is a transnational organized crime that is seen as the “modern slavery” of the 21st century. Due to the low cost and risk of crime, high illegal income and demand, the United Nations ranks it as the top three transnational crimes in the world after drug smuggling and arms smuggling. Since 2019, with the outbreak of the new coronavirus pneumonia, driven by the tide of anti-globalization, the form of human trafficking has changed a lot, which has adversely affected the fight against human trafficking. As an important subject of global security governance, Interpol has established a series of measures such as building an international police cooperation platform to enable law enforcement agencies of various countries to abandon differences in politics and ideology and seek common interests.
  Definition of the type of crime of human trafficking
  According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in 2000: , transfer, harbor or receive others by means of violent threats, other forms of coercion, kidnapping, fraud, etc. At the end of 2017, the first global human trafficking report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime pointed out that the origins of human trafficking are mainly Southeast Asian countries, some Eastern European countries, and central African countries, and the destinations are mainly developed countries. Human trafficking takes many forms, the common denominator is the abuse of the inherent vulnerability of the victim and disregard for human life and dignity. According to the definition of INTERPOL, the types of human trafficking can be divided into the following four types according to different criminal purposes.
  Forced labor of trafficked human beings
  This form of trafficking is relatively extensive, and the victims are mainly from poor areas in developing countries. Sectors of victim labor include agricultural, mining, fishing or construction work, as well as domestic servitude and other labor-intensive work.
  Forcing trafficked persons to commit crimes
  Members of the crime force victims to profit from a range of illegal activities, including theft, drug cultivation, the sale of counterfeit goods or forced begging. Victims often have mandatory profit quotas and suffer physical harm if they fail to meet traffickers’ requirements. This form of trafficking allows criminal networks to profit from a variety of illicit activities with little risk.
  Sexual exploitation of trafficked women and children Women and children
  from vulnerable groups in developing countries are vulnerable to human trafficking. Victims, often using false travel documents, are transported to destination countries by organised criminal networks, where they face inhumane sexual exploitation. Confined in extremely inhumane conditions with no escape, victims are engulfed in constant fear and endangered both physically and mentally. In recent years, cases of child sexual abuse have been increasing, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  Human Trafficking for Organ Transplantation Human trafficking
  for illicit use of organs involves a complex transnational criminal space. In many countries, aging populations and rising rates of diabetes have increased the need for organ transplants, especially with long wait times for transplanted kidneys, which criminals are taking advantage of. Because these organ transplants are often performed in secret, the lack of scientific medical equipment puts transplant recipients at increased risk of infection and complications.
  The impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic on combating human trafficking The
  new coronavirus sweeping the world has increased the risk of vulnerable groups being violated, and the form of human trafficking has also undergone great changes. During the COVID-19 epidemic, vulnerable groups such as women and children of color, the elderly, and the low- and middle-income poor were further pushed to the brink of darkness. The superposition of various uncertain factors increased the probability of them being abducted and trafficked. An INTERPOL expert survey shows that there is a positive correlation between the scale and damage of disaster outbreaks and the crime rate. In particular, the correlation between natural disasters and human trafficking is directly affected by the level of national economic development.
  Epidemic prevention measures make it harder to detect victims of illegal detention and abduction
  Due to the economic downturn and the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, most people have to stay at home, which makes the trafficked people stay with the abusers and exploiters for a long time, especially the survival of forced labor and victims of sexual assault The situation gets worse, and there will be continued brutal oppression. Many are forced to live in cramped spaces without proper exhaust ducts, electricity or gas. The continuous spread of the epidemic has made the survival resources available to the victims increasingly scarce, and human rights have been violated more seriously. Most of the victims are illegal immigrants at the bottom of the society, with low cultural level and debts. Many people do not understand the nature of the matter and their situation.
  The impact of cybercrime on minors has surged. Members of
  organized crime use technology to attract potential victims on the Internet and social media. Due to the epidemic, most teenagers have to study at home through the Internet. Minors are exposed to the Internet environment too early and too much, and they are more likely to be abducted and manipulated by criminals, sexually exploited and physically harmed, and often do not realize it. You are a victim of criminal activity. The 2020 Annual Report released by Interpol pointed out that after the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia, forums on child sexual exploitation and sexual abuse on the darknet (Darknet) were extremely active, with thousands of registrants browsing and posting sexual abuse. infringing child pornography. According to the 2021 U.S. Annual Report on Human Trafficking, the government received a record 21.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation in 2020. Populations who were previously unlikely to be participants or victims of human trafficking have become more vulnerable due to the pandemic and growing desperation to be drawn into this criminal activity.
  Criminal Investigations and Proceedings of Human Trafficking Cases Hindered
  With the closure of schools and businesses, not only are police investigations suspended, but court proceedings have also been delayed. At the same time, because the police force in many areas is used for epidemic prevention and disaster relief, the manpower responsible for repatriation and extradition is in short supply, criminals are not punished in time, and it is more difficult for victims of human trafficking to seek justice and get help.
  Victims of human trafficking cannot get timely help from the government
  In order to combat the spread of the new crown pneumonia virus, most governments have focused their efforts on fighting the epidemic and maintaining social stability, and their crackdown on human trafficking has declined year-on-year. The government’s anti-epidemic relief supplies also failed to reach most victims of human trafficking, as many did not have identification and fixed addresses, faced obstacles in filing tax returns, and were unable to register to receive relief supplies. In addition, criminals will go to great lengths to prevent victims from obtaining government support.
  Refugees and stowaways are more likely to be victims of human trafficking Refugee flows continue
  due to conflict in risk areas or political and economic influence. After arriving in the country of destination, a refugee must apply to the authorities for refugee status in order to obtain a legal residence permit. Usually, the period of refugee status verification is relatively long, and some may even last for several years due to the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic. Although they can get help from the local government during this period, such as cash subsidies, medical assistance and employment guidance, refugees who have just arrived in the destination country have limited understanding of these services and are easily trafficked. What’s more, they are unaware of the fact that they have been abducted, and use the traffickers as shelters, especially when the traffickers provide them with meals and lodging.

  Smuggling is closely related to human trafficking. Generally speaking, once the smugglers make illegal profits after the successful organization of smuggling, the relationship between them and the stowaways ends. But there are many illegal immigrants who are forced to work or prostitute during or after entering the country’s borders, and even transplant organs to pay for their illegal crossing of the country’s borders, from stowaways to victims of human trafficking, out of fear of possible deportation Fear of leaving the country, victims will refuse to disclose the exploitative behavior of criminals. Unlike smuggling, victims of human trafficking are often forced to participate in the process of smuggling across national borders.
  INTERPOL’s Measures to Address Transnational Human Trafficking
  As an important link in the financial chain of transnational organized crime, human trafficking is usually associated with other forms of crime such as terrorist activities, cybercrime, smuggling of migrants, corruption, money laundering, drug smuggling, and environmental damage. Law enforcement officers must reach a consensus under the framework of global police cooperation to crack down on transnational organized crime in an all-round way, and break down the chain of interests of human trafficking at the source. Interpol officially announced the “Global Policing Goals” in 2018, which are to respond to the threat of terrorism, promote the integrity of borders around the world, protect vulnerable communities, provide safe cyberspace for people and businesses, and promote global Integrity, curbing illegal markets, supporting environmental safety and sustainable development are seven goals. Among them, the third goal, “Protecting Vulnerable Communities”, was established for transnational human trafficking activities, and its functional orientation is consistent with the 16th item of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goal, which is to “create a peaceful and inclusive society”. to promote sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
  Establish cooperation between international institutions and civil society organizations
  INTERPOL works closely with other international agencies involved in the protection of human rights, including Eurojust, Europol, the International Organization for Migration, the International Labour Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European and Southeastern European Cooperation Initiative and the United Nations Office at Geneva, United Nations UNODC, etc. In addition, INTERPOL recognizes the importance of partnerships with social service agencies in member countries such as child protection organizations, social service agencies and non-governmental non-profit organizations, and regularly organizes its involvement in human trafficking prevention campaigns and victims Placement work to ensure that young children and vulnerable groups are properly cared for throughout the operation. Among them, private business partners play a key role in preventing, identifying and reporting suspected human trafficking cases. For example, in 2018, Uber, the first private company, joined the Interpol Human Trafficking Panel as a partner, followed by western union. INTERPOL has also strengthened working relationships with financial institutions, transport, accommodation and internet service providers.
  Strengthening advocacy with victim
  - centred principles Interpol has always followed victim-centred principles in line with the UN’s Global Agreement on Safe, Orderly and Lawful Migration. Secretary-General Jurgen Stock believes that combating human trafficking needs to strengthen the awareness and ability of victim-centered ideology and prevention, and help people improve their self-rescue capabilities. To this end, INTERPOL has carried out extensive publicity around the world, and has joined hands with various partner agencies to call on the public, especially the minority community, to increase their awareness of human trafficking, improve crime identification capabilities, and strengthen online education for young people. Guide the international community to fully understand the serious harm of such crimes and prevent human trafficking from the source.
  Expert guidance and participation in on-site crisis management
  1. Special training to improve the police’s ability to handle cases. Interpol has established cross-agency working relationships with law enforcement agencies in member states to enhance police capacity to identify and investigate human trafficking cases by strengthening front-line police operations training. The training covers how to identify and protect victims, professional interrogation and questioning skills, and the proper use of police equipment. One of them is the FIRST project (Facial, Imaging, Identification, Search and Tracking), where biometric data such as fingerprints and facial recognition can help member states strengthen border security. Since 2019, INTERPOL’s Global Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, supported by G7 security ministers, has provided training, investigative reinforcements and crime analysis for law enforcement operations in many member countries.
  2. Send expert teams to address human trafficking crises on the ground for member states. INTERPOL assists national police with strategic deployments to combat human trafficking, and a dedicated Incident Response Team (IRT) for reinforcements can respond swiftly upon request from member states. Just earlier this year, after a war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, large numbers of Ukrainian refugees poured into Moldova, a country that borders it. In March, the INTERPOL mission provided on-the-ground assistance to Moldovan law enforcement and humanitarian agencies, joining forces with the Moldovan Police Directorate, the Border Police Directorate, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the International Organization for Migration, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Consultation and cooperation in the field of combating human trafficking and other crimes to jointly deal with the Ukrainian refugee crisis. The deployment of the operation was carried out in the framework of cooperation with the EU agencies EUBAM (EU Border Assistance Mission in Moldova and Ukraine), Europol and the EU border agency (Frontex). The mission is based in a refugee camp in Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, for refugees who have recently fled Ukraine. According to the intelligence received by Interpol, human traffickers have been looking for Ukrainian refugees at various border checkpoints in Moldova, and a large number of children and unaccompanied minors are very vulnerable to the lure and exploitation of criminals. The specific measures of the mission include: (1) Helping Moldovan law enforcement and humanitarian organizations to assess the local refugee situation and determine assistance needs. (2) Training humanitarian organizations responsible for refugee resettlement in initial identification of potential victims of human trafficking. (3) Provide translation and relevant legal publicity for Ukrainian refugees to ensure that newly arrived refugees understand their rights and avoid becoming victims of human trafficking.
  Provide a crime data exchange platform for member states
  INTERPOL has the largest and most extensive criminal intelligence database in the world. Among the 17 commonly used databases related to human trafficking are the Interpol Crime Database (ICIS), the Stolen/Lost Travel Documents Database (SLTD), the Stolen Motor Vehicles Database (SMV), the Automatic Fingerprint Identification Database (AFIS), the International Database on Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE). In September 2020, using the AFIS database, Schengen border inspectors identified and arrested a stowaways whose fingerprints matched the biometrics of a human trafficking suspect in Afghanistan years earlier. The ICSE database holds more than 2.7 million images of child sexual exploitation and has so far identified more than 26,000 victims and 12,000 offenders worldwide. Interpol provides big data support for the police in member states to track criminal suspects, find missing persons or collect early case information by comparing data such as portrait photos, fingerprints and backgrounds, vehicles and documents of the involved parties in a timely manner. In addition, INTERPOL’s I-24/7 global police communications system can notify member states of fugitives, missing persons or dangerous weapons.
  Regular case seminars and international conferences to share intelligence An approach to
  cross- departmental exchange of experience brings together the strengths of national police for maximum benefit. INTERPOL has built a communication platform for experts from all over the world to discuss human trafficking cases, covering general information, international legislation, law enforcement guidelines and special action manuals. INTERPOL’s Best Practices Guide for Investigators (2017) is an internationally recognized guide for human rights law enforcement officers in human trafficking cases. INTERPOL has also established an Expert Working Group on Human Trafficking to coordinate the sharing of best practices and intelligence information on crime-fighting by national police. In addition, the regular global conference on human trafficking and smuggling brings together experts from law enforcement, public service and private industry, NGOs and international organizations in member states. At the 7th Global Conference on Human Trafficking and Smuggling in Argentina in 2021, the exchange of criminal intelligence information on counter-terrorism and human trafficking is a top priority for Interpol. In recent years, INTERPOL has placed increasing emphasis on cooperating with the United Nations to combat organized transnational crime, especially intelligence sharing involving terrorism.

  Since the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, INTERPOL has launched three joint anti-trafficking “Operation Turquoise”. Despite the impact of the epidemic, the results of the action are still very significant. All three operations were organized and led by Interpol, with the participation of international agencies such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Air Police, Europol, the International Organization for Migration and the World Customs Organization.
  The first “Operation Turquoise” took place from October 28 to 31, 2019, and was dedicated to combating human trafficking in the Americas, involving 20 countries. In this operation, INTERPOL established the Special Action Team to Combat Human Trafficking (ISON), which is composed of 165 law enforcement experts from 126 countries of origin, transit and destination to conduct an analysis of INTERPOL crime database at sea, land and air borders. Nearly 1 million comparisons were made. 53 suspects were arrested at the event, and 775 victims from 30 different countries were rescued.
  The second “Operation Turquoise” took place from November 27 to December 3, 2020, with the support of INTERPOL’s special programme to combat human trafficking, law enforcement officers from 32 countries across multiple continents through INTERPOL Database, which has conducted more than 50,000 comparisons of suspicious persons at sea, land and air borders and hotspots. During the operation, INTERPOL issued a total of 18 red notices, 367 blue notices for criminal suspects, 188 yellow notices for missing persons and 4 purple notices for new criminal techniques. More than 200 criminal suspects have been apprehended in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia, some 3,500 stowaways have been identified, and more than 100 potential victims of human trafficking have been identified. Some local politicians are also under investigation for their alleged involvement in the criminal process.
  The third “Operation Turquoise”, which runs from November 29 to December 3, 2021, also targets the repeated crimes of smuggling and human trafficking across the Americas. A total of 34 member states participated in the enforcement operation, which resulted in the arrest of 216 criminal suspects and the identification of more than 10,000 illegal immigrants from 61 different countries and territories. In this operation, a total of 127 victims of human trafficking who were forced to labor and sexually exploited were rescued. Interpol compares criminal database information about 65,000 times at border crossings and at 98 checkpoints across four continents. During this period, 19,370 blank passports seized by Mexican authorities were added to Interpol’s SLTD database.
  In recent years, in addition to “Operation Turquoise”, INTERPOL has also regularly assessed the law enforcement situation of anti-trafficking activities for member states, organized transnational rescue operations locally, and disrupted human trafficking networks. For example, in September 2019, Interpol investigated criminal trafficking in people for organ transplants in North and West Africa, confirming that organ trafficking networks in the region involved illicit medical sectors in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In the INTERPOL-led Enact project to combat people smuggling and human trafficking in Africa (2017-2021), this special assessment helps member countries to adopt timely and proactive strategies to combat the threat of organised crime, in promoting information exchange and improving investigative skills Played a major intelligence bridge role.
  The ongoing transnational anti-trafficking operation is Project Sotria (May 2021-May 2025), targeting criminals intermingled in the international humanitarian relief sector. Interpol leads national government law enforcement agencies, social assistance agencies, private industry, United Nations legal experts and human trafficking survivors to form the Human Trafficking Advisory Committee. According to the intelligence information provided by the commission, due to the urgency of the United Nations to deploy humanitarian relief work, the international aid and development sector was unable to conduct a thorough screening of recruited staff, resulting in some criminals abusing their position facilities to protect and Sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment of victims of assistance. Without INTERPOL’s professional analysis, good detection mechanisms and unimpeded communication channels, criminals may continue to commit crimes in the humanitarian relief sector, putting children and vulnerable groups at further risk of being abducted.