Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims, and are convicting more traffickers. This can be the result of increased capacity to identify victims and/or an increased number of trafficked victims Countries have reported increased numbers of detected trafficking victims over the last few years. While the number of reporting countries did not significantly increase, the total number of victims per country did. The trend for the average number of detected and reported victims per country had previously fluctuated during the earlier years for which UNODC has collected this data, but it has been increasing steadily over the last few years.
From a regional perspective, the increases in the numbers of detected victims have been more pronounced in the Americas and in Asia. These increases can be the result of enhanced national capacities to detect, record and report data on trafficking victims, or to a growth in the incidence of trafficking, that is, that more victims have been trafficked. Enhanced national capacity to detect victims could be achieved through strengthened institutional efforts to combat trafficking including legislative reforms, coordination among national actors, special law enforcement capacities and improved victim protection efforts, to mention some. In countries with a long-standing anti-trafficking framework, with no major recent legislative or programmatic initiatives, more detections may be more likely to reflect an increased number of trafficked victims.
Over the last ten years, the capacity of national authorities to track and assess patterns and flows of trafficking in persons has improved in many parts of the world. This is also due to a specific focus of the international community in developing standards for data collection. Capacity building in data collection has become one of the aspects of counter-trafficking activities that the international community considers for evidence-based responses. More countries are now also able to collect and record data and report on trafficking in persons, the capacity to collect official statistics on trafficking in persons at the national level has improved. In 2009, only 26 countries had an institution which systematically collected and disseminated data on trafficking cases, while by 2018, the number had risen to 65.
Still large areas of impunity
While most countries have had comprehensive trafficking in person legislation in place for some years, the number of convictions has only recently started to grow. Pronounced increasing trends in the numbers of convictions were recorded in Asia, the Americas, and Africa and the Middle East. The increased number of convictions broadly follows the increases in the number of detected and reported victims, which shows that the criminal justice response is reflecting the detection trend. However, many countries in Africa and Asia continue to have very low numbers of convictions for trafficking, and at the same time detect fewer victims.
Reporting limited numbers of detected victims and few convictions does not necessarily mean that traffickers are not active in these countries. In fact, victims trafficked from subregions with low detection and conviction rates are found in large numbers in other subregions. This suggests that trafficking networks operate with a high degree of impunity in these countries. This impunity could serve as an incentive to carry out more trafficking.
More trafficking of domestic victims, while the richest countries are destinations for long-distance flows
Most trafficking victims are detected in their countries of citizenship. Detections of domestic victims have increased over the last 15 years. In addition to domestic and subregional trafficking, wealthy countries are more likely to be destinations for detected victims trafficked from more distant origins. Western and Southern Europe and countries in the Middle East, for example, record sizable shares of victims trafficked from other regions; whereas such detections are relatively rare in most other parts of the world.