/ 1 October 2021

Human trafficking is the most pervasive criminal market — global report

Douniamag Morocco Social Children Rights
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues in its second year, the global organised crime network remains rife. (Fadel Senna/ AFP)

Human trafficking is flourishing off the back of the Covid-19 pandemic with traffickers charge higher prices to sidestep travel bans or exploit displaced people. 

Scoring 5.58 out of 10, human trafficking ranks the highest across 10 criminal markets evaluated by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GITOC) over a period of two years. It beats the cannabis trade (5.10), arms trafficking (4.92) and the lucrative cocaine trade (4.52). 

“The human trafficking market has been fuelled by mass displacement, often overlapping with human smuggling, and caused by, among other factors, conflict, desperate socioeconomic conditions and — not least of all — crime,” reads GITOC’s 2021 Global Organised Crime Index report. 

South Africa’s score for human trafficking is 4.5. 

The report notes: “Trafficking also exploits non-displaced populations through practices such as forced labour, forced begging and organ trafficking, among other forms.”

The index evaluated crime levels and resilience in the 193 United Nations member states. 

“While the global licit economy ground to a halt under lockdowns and travel restrictions [due to Covid-19 restrictions], criminals were working out how to circumvent obstacles and exploit the situation,” the report says.

The global illicit economy continued to show an upward trajectory it has followed over the past 20 years, “posing an ever-increasing threat to security, development and justice”.

One of the key findings of the report was how organised crime afflicts the whole of society. A majority of the world’s population — 79.2% — lives in countries with high levels of criminality.

“While organised crime so often targets the most susceptible communities, its impact ultimately raises the vulnerability of societies overall,” the report said.

South Africa has a criminality average high of 6.63 with a resilience average high of 5.79. According to the report: “Although far less common, there are also countries such as Nigeria and South Africa that are fairly resilient to organised crime, yet also suffer from significant levels of criminality.”

It singled out South Africa, Nigeria, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Italy, Malaysia, Spain and the United States as the countries where both crime and resilience were high, noting that the majority of these nations were the economic powerhouses in their respective regions. 

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues in its second year, the global organised crime network remains rife. The Global Initiative report aims to highlight the phenomenon of transnational organised crime that, similar to the pandemic, “requires a collaborative global response” to combat it.