As emergency teams set up medical tents, aid agencies bring in hundreds of volunteers, and public appeals fill our news channels, human traffickers lay plans to exploit those most vulnerable in a crisis for their personal gain.
When we see people who have lost everything in natural disasters, unforeseen conflicts, or national economic crises, traffickers see the opportunity to target and exploit desperate people. Displaced people are at significant risk of trafficking. In the eyes of a trafficker, disasters offer an opportunity to expand their business model.
In times of crisis, there is a dramatic increase of people on the move, people desperate for work in new countries, people without legal documentation, and families split apart. Traffickers do not wait for people to rebuild their lives or find their loved ones. Instead, they target the most vulnerable. Traffickers do not wait, so neither can we.
Armed conflicts leave populations vulnerable to organ trafficking, a criminal enterprise with little international regulation when viewed separately from human trafficking.
Our work in Ukraine in 2022, and Türkiye in 2023, showed there is a direct correlation between disaster and human trafficking, with traffickers capitalising on the chaos, displacement, and isolation to exploit potential victims when they are at their most vulnerable.
We are watching another disaster unfold as we see the extreme loss of civilian life in Palestine, as well as Israel. There have been reports of alleged organ trafficking and organ theft which, if found to be true, suggests that some of the most disturbing facets of human trafficker’s are at work.
We also know that as a result of this conflict, millions of people will continue to be displaced. We expect to see the risk of other forms of trafficking rise as people flee, trying to find safety and security in other regions and countries. Nine in ten recruited victims of trafficking are targeted when migrating to find work.
Human trafficking is a crime that is hidden all around us, and traffickers exploit technology to remain anonymous and avoid prosecution. STOP THE TRAFFIK’s work shines a light onto trafficking operations, so we can build a robust response with multiple actors to help at-risk communities avoid harm in the future.
Have you experienced a form of exploitation, or been approached by an exploiter, following a disaster?
Has someone you know experienced a form of exploitation, or been approached by an exploiter, following a disaster?
If you’re a frontline organisation or NGO, we are actively seeking intelligence on the risk of exploitation following disasters, with a focus on human trafficking. This includes any information regarding organ trafficking occurring currently as a result of the war in Gaza. If you have information on this issue, please email us.