“Covid had an impact on human trafficking”, says Manuel Albano, vice president of the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, while noting that the pandemic had an impact “on everything”.

The expert – who on 27 July will be one of the speakers at the forum “Trafficking in human beings during a pandemic”, organized by the Assembly of the Republic – emphasizes that “it is still too early to realise the real impact”.

However, the studies already carried out allow us to conclude that sexual exploitation has moved to the online space, which imposes a greater involvement of cybercrime, he stressed.

Even so, the pandemic had no impact on structures that provide assistance to victims, who "did not stop their activity", noted the national data for Trafficking in Human Beings, highlighting the great work of the multidisciplinary teams.

“We tried to reduce this impact” and the response “remained in full operation”, he stressed, recalling that this area was one of the exceptions to the state of emergency.

Marta Pereira, coordinator of the Family Planning Association's Center for Reception and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, is at the forefront of the answer and confirms that, “at first, the difficulty of signaling and reaching people who need support”.

In the recommended time of distance, the protection responses to victims are more difficult to carry out, for example doing 14 days of isolation in a strange space, with people you do not know, who, on top of that, have now started to wear masks and safety equipment.

All this made it difficult to "create a relationship", essential for the emotional stabilization of victims, stresses the coordinator of the Reception and Protection Center, which has been in operation since 2008 and has the capacity to accommodate six victims and assist four others in the process of becoming autonomous.

"That was the big challenge, to be able to create a relationship, despite all these barriers", she points out, noting that "the strategies had to be more creative" and that "there had to be a great union of teams", in order "not to worsen” the situation in which the victims found themselves.

Trafficking in human beings is one of the most serious violations of human rights, in most cases tran-snational and with links to organized crime.

It is estimated that each year more than 2.4 million people are trafficked around the world, with women and children being the most vulnerable, with an economic impact comparable to that of trafficking in arms and drugs.

The debate on trafficking in human beings promoted on 27 July by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees and the Subcommittee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, integrated in the cycle “The impact of Covid-19 and inequalities”, can be monitored through the ARTV's online page - Canal Parliament.

Among the guest speakers are representatives of the Conditions Authority, the Foreigners and Borders Service, the Judiciary Police, the Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings and the Women's Democratic Movement. The debate will be closed by Antero Luís, Deputy Secretary of State and Internal Administration.