Human trafficking remains a high profit and low risk crime which worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic with the increase of risk factors, Gender Equality Commissioner Josephine Antoniou said on Monday.

In statements to mark European anti-trafficking day, the commissioner said this year’s theme, Victims’ Voices Lead the Way, highlights the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking.

“The impact of Covid-19, unfortunately, has increased the number of people in precarious situations, where they are more prone to fall victim to traffickers for their exploitation,” Antoniou said.

As many as 124 million more people have been pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic.

She added that trafficking remains a crime with high profit and low risks, based on the principles of supply and demand.

About one third of all trafficking victims around the world are children, while women are still highly affected by human trafficking.

In 2018, for every ten victims identified worldwide, about five were adult women and two were girls. About a third of the total victims identified were children, girls (19 per cent) and boys (15 per cent), while 20 per cent were adult men, Antoniou said.

“We must break this inhuman cycle of discrimination and injustice against human beings,” the commissioner said, adding that measures and policies are needed that one day would eliminate this phenomenon.

At the same time, “we must assist the victims who are being identified, provide them with high protection and facilitate their immediate access to support structures,” she added.

“No one has the right to violate the human rights of any human being -man, woman, child,” Antoniou said.

More than 21 million people are estimated to be victims of human trafficking each year worldwide, police said later on Monday.

In their own statement to mark the day, police said victims live “in conditions of terror, coercion and exploitation”, which undermine human dignity and violate basic human rights.

They often suffer sexual or labour exploitation, or are forced to marry against their will and to live in inhumane conditions.

Police called on anyone who might have information about related issues to call 1497 and help the force and the competent bodies in the fight against this crime.

Information may be given anonymously.

According to the United Nation’s website, “survivors are key actors in the fight against human trafficking. They play a crucial role in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and supporting them on their road to rehabilitation.”

The UN explained that many victims of human trafficking have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help and have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings.

Some victims have faced revictimisation and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers while others have been subjected to stigmatisation or received inadequate support.

“Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centred and effective approach in combating human trafficking,” the UN said.