Traffickers, smugglers exploiting COVID-19, Interpol warns after global crackdown

by Kieran Guilbert | KieranG77 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 11 December 2020 14:30 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A boy released from a human trafficking boat shows the scars he got from being hit by the human trafficker onboard the boat, at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, Myanmar May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

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About 100 suspected victims of trafficking rescued in global operation to tackle criminal networks

LONDON, Dec 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Dozens of suspected victims of human trafficking were rescued and more than 200 people arrested in a global crackdown on smuggling and trafficking networks, Interpol said on Friday.

The recent week-long operation involved authorities from 32 nations across several continents and led to the identification of 3,500 irregular migrants, the global police agency said.

About 100 potential trafficking victims were found and helped in Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Spain and Uruguay as part of Operation Turquesa II, Interpol said.

The operation highlighted how the coronavirus pandemic has left a rising number of people vulnerable to trafficking worldwide, said Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock.

"Organized crime groups continue to take advantage of vulnerable people seeking a better life, especially during COVID-19, and demand large sums of money with little or no concern for their welfare," Stock said in a statement.

Several anti-trafficking experts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in October that fallout from COVID-19 was driving more people into forced labour or sexual exploitation while support services for survivors have been suspended or shut.

Interpol said at least 30 of the more than 200 arrests made during the operation were linked to the sexual exploitation of female migrants and trafficking victims.

Unlike trafficking, which involves deception or control over another person for the purpose of exploitation, smuggling means entering another country illegally and is considered consensual.

About 25 million people globally are estimated to be victims of human trafficking, according to the United Nations' International Labour Organization and rights group Walk Free.

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(Writing by Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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