United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that conflict and climate change are among the factors for the increase of human trafficking.
To mark the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, the UN chief said in his message that "human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects every region of the world."
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), some 72 percent of detected victims are women and girls, and the percentage of child victims has more than doubled from 2004 to 2016.
"Most detected victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation; victims are also trafficked for forced labour, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse," Guterres said in his message.
Many of those falling prey to traffickers are migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers who have left their country of origin for various reasons.
Pointing to armed conflict, displacement, climate change, natural disasters and poverty as factors that exacerbate the vulnerabilities and desperation that enable trafficking to flourish, the UN chief emphasized that migrants are being targeted.
"Thousands of people have died at sea, in deserts and in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and migrant smugglers plying their monstrous, merciless trades," he continued.
Speaking on the need to step up protection for the most vulnerable, Guterres said that most countries have the necessary laws in place, but "more needs to be done to bring transnational trafficking networks to justice and, most of all, to ensure that victims are identified and can access the protection and services they need."