According to findings from the United Nations’ Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), cases of online human trafficking in Asia have seen a significant spike.
The office stated that, hundreds of thousands of individuals have been forced into internet scams by criminal gangs in the Southeast Asia. The report stated that, by torturing and abusing the victims, the gangs have generated billions of dollars in revenue in a year.
According to OHCHR research, Asia is gradually becoming a center of cybercrime scams, where workers are detained and forced to participate in internet fraud.
The report stated that, there have been number of major human rights breaches that affect employees, and many of them involved atrocities including torture, arbitrary detention, sexual assault, and forced labor.
It added that, over 100,000 people in Cambodia and about 120,000 people in Myanmar, have been held against their will, and forced to participate in sumptuous online scams, including cryptocurrency fraud and illegal gambling.
The Philippines, Thailand, and Laos PDR have also been mentioned as among the nations, where gangs practice this criminal activities.
“People who are coerced into working in these scamming operations endure inhumane treatment while being forced to carry out crimes. They are victims. They are not criminals.”Volker Türk, UN Human Rights Chief.
Additionally, the human right office stated that, the victims used by the gangs to perform these fraudulent acts, are not only from the South Asian region, but some come from other Asian countries such as China’s mainland Hong Kong, as well as other part of the world like Africa and Latin America.
Mr. Türk called on States to ensure justice “for the people who have been so horrifically abused.”
According to OHCHR, even when victims are saved or manage to flee, they frequently face criminal charges or immigration sanctions rather than being shielded and given exposure to the treatment and relief they require.
“All affected States need to summon the political will to strengthen human rights and improve governance and the rule of law, including through serious and sustained efforts to tackle corruption.”
“Only such a holistic approach can break the cycle of impunity and ensure protection and justice for the people who have been so horrifically abused.”Volker Türk, UN Human Rights Chief.
On the other hand, addressing a session in Geneva, OHCHR Senior Advisor on Migration and Human Right in Asia Pacific, Pia Oberoi, stated that, the effects of the global pandemic in 2020, coupled with other global economic challenges, have blocked safe channels for descent employments, causing people to be trapped in such organized crime activities.
“This has meant populations are more likely to rely on recruitment forums or intermediaries,” therefore prompting criminal networks to target victims through these avenues, providing fake assurances for descent employment.
“It follows a pattern of how labour migration has taken place in the region, and also speaks to the sophistication of these fraudulent recruitments.”Pia Oberoi, OHCHR Senior Advisor on Migration and Human Right in Asia Pacific.
According to Ms. Oberoi, the canker has been “unfolding in locations where regulations is weak, with little to no rule of law, and in a laxly regulated jurisdiction,” such as conflict-affected borderlands of Myanmar, People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, and Cambodia.
She added that, the ability of Asian nationals to move across borders with legal passage documents, indicates the “lack of protection sensitive screening,” because officials at these border areas, do not have the training to “identify protection sensitive response.”
OHCHR stated that, despite the existence of numerous regional legal structures for the prosecution of such offenses, States always ignore to recognize coerced criminality as a legal infraction.