UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday deplored the lack of world attention to human trafficking, a menace that he said is omnipresent. “Too often, human traffickers operate with impunity, and receive much less attention than, for instance, drug traffickers. This must change,” Guterres told a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly. “I have seen many drug lords in jail — and rightly so. I have never seen a human trafficking lord in jail,” Xinhua quoted him as saying. Guterres said tens of millions of people are victims of forced labour, sexual servitude, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse.
“Because traffickers prey upon vulnerable and marginalised people, the problem can seem remote from those members of society who are more fortunate, including political decision-makers. By contrast, the threat of illicit drugs typically feels very close — and therefore receives attention and resources from all governments,” he said. Fighting human trafficking requires greater use of relevant UN conventions, as well as much stronger cooperation among UN member states, he said. “It is clear to me that it is our responsibility as leaders to make human trafficking a real priority for international cooperation.”
Refugees and migrants are especially vulnerable, and their plight is only compounded when they are treated as criminals by their host governments and communities, he said, adding that the international community must create legal and safe migration channels. He called for a survivor-centered approach, including the need to uphold the right of refugees to asylum. He stressed the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which addresses some of the root causes that make people vulnerable to trafficking.