By Daniela Carrasco.
At least 233 Venezuelan women were rescued from trafficking and sexual exploitation groups during the first six months of 2020, while experts say this type of trafficking has considerably increased due to the global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organizations, Exodus, Mulier, and Hias, exposed this reality in a web seminar in which they also gave specific figures for Venezuelan women who were rescued from human trafficking networks around the world since 2018. Expert Veronica Mesa said that COVID-19 is an ideal scenario for trafficking because the confinement measures put more obstacles in the way of detecting victims.
Mesa presented a media-monitoring report conducted by Mulier in which figures of Venezuelan women and girls (under 17) who have been rescued from human trafficking networks from 2018 to the first half of 2020 were collected.
And while there have been more rescues, it seems that the crisis in Venezuela is also providing these organizations with more victims. In 2019, 480 Venezuelan women and girls were rescued from criminal organizations, 30% more than in 2018, when only 372 got similarly extracted.
Concerning the first half of 2020, 11 registered cases of trafficking networks recorded so far, involving some 233 Venezuelan women rescued.
The victims were taken as far as Austria, Spain or Mexico, or kept relatively close to Venezuela in Guyana and Colombia. In 2020, Bolivia and Mexico added their names to the list of countries were such criminal networks took Venezuelan victims.
According to the United Nations (UN), for every victim rescued from a human trafficking network, there are 20 more trapped.
COVID-19 increases Human Trafficking
The co-founder of Exodus, Norma Ferrer, said the mobility process that Venezuelan migrants are living makes them more vulnerable to becoming victims of this crime.
According to the International Organization for Migration, vulnerability due to the health crisis affects more than five million migrants, preventing them from obtaining a job, or continuing to pay their daily expenses.
Ferrer explains that Venezuelan women, seeing the need to return to their country during the pandemic, resort to illegal border crossings, where they are more exposed to people who might approach to induce them into a human trafficking network.
Dorennys Angulo, manager of HIAS Venezuela, explains that there are many cases in which trafficking victims themselves recruit other women to fall into such networks. She explains that this happens when the victims in that world, decide to start collaborating in the criminal enterprise as their only way out.
Angulo explains that some of the so-called recruiters are directly part of the trafficking network, and later, they are judging like criminals but, most of them started as victims and through blackmail and threats became recruiters.