A new U.N. report paints a grim picture of the millions of people trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor: They come from at least 136 different nationalities, have been detected in 118 countries, and the majority of victims are women though the number of children is increasing.
The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime, which launched the report Tuesday at U.N. headquarters, said the victims can be found in the world's restaurants, fisheries, brothels, farms and homes, among other places.
The report said trafficking for sexual exploitation accounts for 58 percent of all trafficking cases detected globally while the share of detected cases for forced labor has doubled over the past four years to 36 percent.
In general, it said traffickers are adult men and nationals of the country in which they operate but more women and foreign nationals are involved than in most other crimes.
"This global crime generates billions of dollars in profits for the traffickers," Yury Fedotov, executive director of the Vienna-based agency known as the UNODC, said in the preface.
The International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor globally, a figure that includes victims of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation, he said.
"While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world," Fedotov said.
According to the report, trafficking for sexual exploitation is more common in Europe, Central Asia and the Americas while trafficking for forced labor is more frequently found in Africa, the Middle East, south and east Asia and the Pacific.
Women account for 55-60 percent of all trafficking victims detected globally, and women and girls together account for about 75 percent, it said.
One worrying trend is the apparent increase in the trafficking of children, with the percentage of detected victims increasing from 20 percent between 2003-2006 to some 27 percent between 2007-2010, the report said.
Among the child victims detected, it said, two of every three trafficked children were girls.
The report said detection of other forms of trafficking remain relatively rare.
Trafficking for the removal of organs, though comprising just 0.2 percent of detected cases in 2010, was reported by 16 countries in all regions surveyed, it said.
Trafficking for other purposes including begging, forced marriage, illegal adoption, participating in armed combat and committing crimes, accounted for 6 percent of detected cases in 2010, including 1.5 percent of victims exploited for begging, the report said.
The report said progress has been made in fighting trafficking, with 134 countries and territories passing laws making it a crime.
But the UNODC said progress in getting convictions is limited.
Of the 132 countries covered in the report, it said 16 percent did not record a single conviction for human trafficking between 2007 and 2010.
"Human trafficking requires a forceful response founded on the assistance and protection for victims, rigorous enforcement by the criminal justice system, a sound migration policy and firm regulation of the labor markets," said UNODC chief Fedotov.