Human Trafficking and the Covid-19 Pandemic
The pandemic drags on. New variants. Continued economic impacts. Increasing confusion and frustration. Did you know the pandemic has dramatically changed the face of human trafficking? Learn how labor trafficking and sex trafficking have changed during the pandemic, how victims are being exploited, and how YOU can help survivors find freedom and independence.
Mosaic’s Countertrafficking Division Senior Immigration Attorney, Megan Smith said, “The longer that this pandemic continues, the more I am concerned for trafficking survivors who are being pushed further into the margins, either stuck in the trafficking situation or unable to access the emotional and legal support needed to recover and stabilize.”
During the pandemic, Mosaic has served over 270 human trafficking survivors. But the numbers don’t tell the full picture. In 2020 we served 156 trafficking survivors. In 2021 we served 116. Although these numbers may look good at first glance – as if the need for our services declined – they are actually very worrisome. The decrease in the number of clients we served in 2021 is an indication that trafficking victims are not able to contact us for assistance.
Why has human trafficking worsened during the pandemic?
- Lockdowns have forced people into the shadows.
- Job losses have forced people to turn to illegal and abusive methods of earning money.
- Increased surveillance by abusers in the home has prevented victims from reaching out for help.
- Increased activity online has opened up new opportunities for abusers to exploit their victims.
Additionally, the recession and subsequent inflation caused by the pandemic have caused many to fall victim to traffickers.
“Millions of people who were living in subsistence conditions have lost their wages…Those who continue to work in sectors where trafficking is frequently detected may face more exploitation because of the need to lower production costs…” (UNODC)
When the pandemic forced everyone online for work, education, and entertainment, it also spurred increased recruiting and exploitation of victims online. This is especially true of children. “I’ve had more children referred to me over the past two years who were labor trafficked when schools shut down or went virtual,” said Smith.
For people who were already being trafficked, the pandemic has worsened their already terrifying and devastating situation.
For many survivors, “work from home” means there is no escape from their abuser, making it even more challenging for them to find resources and make the life-saving phone call to Mosaic’s 24/7 hotline. For victims that do have access to a smartphone or computer, a quick email to Mosaic is the safest way for them to reach us. Phone calls can be overheard, and leaving for in-person visits to our office is simply out of the question.
Providing services has been challenging. Smith noted that “It’s been difficult (providing) a trauma-informed approach to working with clients over the phone or online. Socially-distanced services require more rapport-building at the beginning than pre-pandemic.”
How you can help trafficking victims escape abuse and gain independence in your community
Human trafficking is a big problem right here in Dallas. Did you see this article from December 23? Three teenage boys were recovered from labor trafficking in Richland Hills because the car they were in happened to be stopped on a routine traffic violation. Or how about this operation in Tarrant county that resulted in 115 arrests? There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, more victims here that still need help escaping their abusers.
- Provide emergency shelter so survivors can immediately escape their abusive situation
- Provide legal representation to survivors so so they can seek justice and live without fear of exploitation
- Provide mental health counseling so survivors can heal from the trauma they’ve experienced
- Provide economic empowerment classes so survivors can learn to thrive on their own
Because we serve people from many backgrounds, we find that survivors often face additional barriers to obtaining freedom including language, culture, and knowledge of their rights. For our survivors, speaking up often means they become a social outcast. This is why we turn to our supporters. We need your help to show survivors that life outside of this cycle of abuse is possible. Please donate today to give trafficking survivors the right to freedom and independence.
There are victims who need help, but we don’t have the budget to reach all of them. Will you please send a donation today to help survivors of human rights abuses? A gift of $100 provides survivors with an attorney who will ensure their stories are heard and their rights are recognized, but any amount will provide life-saving services for victims.
Check out these other blogs to hear from trafficking survivors who got help at Mosaic:
- Ingrid Guerrero Rodriguez: Life After Trafficking
- Interview with a Labor Trafficking Survivor: Yuri
- Survivor Series: Layla’s Story
The information in this blog came from the following sources. Read them to learn more about the effects of the covid-19 pandemic on human trafficking.