For many years, Europe is one of the top destinations for irregular migration and migrant smuggling. Due to its geopolitical characteristics, illegal trafficking in persons is articulated through organized criminals using mostly the “Balkan Route” into the Schengen frontiers and then into many central European countries.
Soroptimist International of Europe is more alert now and concerned by the difficulty in assessing the real effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on human trafficking, when we already know that criminals are creating alternative tricky opportunities and new models to approach victims such as cybercrime.
As INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock has recently stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has not blunted the determination of organized crime groups to prey on the vulnerable and make a profit from these crimes, which all too often cost the victims their lives”.
UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime alerts on an increased risk arising from the restriction of circulation, the closing of borders and also the enforcement of quarantine, which delay rescue, hide victims and reduce support and protection.
Women are suffering disproportionally with this health crises, facing the loss of their incomes, so they may ultimately seek subsistence in illicit or informal unregulated sectors such as sex industry, petty crime, domestic settings or agriculture across borders, eventually placing them more distant from the State’s and NGOs protective equipment.
Soroptimist International of Europe calls for EU Governments and Authorities as the Borders’ Police to detect and combat accurately on EU Trafficking in Persons, enforcing anti-trafficking measures and border requisites.
In this process, capacity building is essential to address the vulnerabilities of women and children, securing victims from gross violations of human rights e.g the Principle of Non Refoulement .
Human Rights must be observed, moreover in specific contexts such as refugee’s protection and humanitarian assistance caused by war, instability scenarios or natural disasters.
 The prohibition of refoulement under international human rights law applies to any form of removal or transfer of persons, regardless of their status, where there are substantial grounds for believing that the returnee would be at risk of irreparable harm upon return on account of torture, ill-treatment or other serious breaches of human rights obligations.