United Nations -- A new U.N. report warns "the number of human trafficking victims is on the rise" as criminal gangs and terror groups prey increasingly on women and children to make money and bolster their numbers. The 90-page Global Trafficking in Persons report says that children, who account for 30 percent of all trafficking victims, include "far more" girls than boys.
Sexual exploitation is the main motivation for the trafficking, the report says, accounting for about 59 percent.
"The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 percent of those trafficked for forced labor are female," Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) wrote in the report, adding that trafficking cases overall have hit a 13-year high.
The report, published by the UNODC earlier this month, was presented at a panel discussion at U.N. Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.
Human trafficking to the United States
The report says the United States and Mexico are often the destinations for the victims, many of whom come from Central American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
"Child soldiers, forced labor, sexual slavery -- human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters," Fedotov said in the report.
The issue has also been highlighted by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), which produced a report evaluating domestic victims of human trafficking, and a documentary, entitled "Sex + Money" was released, intended to raise awareness of human trafficking within the U.S. The film focuses on how children are groomed by traffickers and asserts that "sexual exploitation of children has become the nation's fastest-growing form of organized crime."
President Trump has repeatedly pointed to the crime of human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border to bolster his demand for a wall or fence along the frontier.
"Victims can be in restaurants, fisheries, brothels, farms and homes," Rani Hong told the U.N. agency, recounting his experience as a victim. He was taken from his home in India at the age of seven and eventually sold for illegal adoption in Canada and later the United States.
Why the U.N. compiled the report
The U.N. report is based on data gathered from 155 nations.
Fedotov said the need for urgent action was brought to international attention by the office's Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, Nadia Murad, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
The award to Murad, and to Dr. Denis Mukwege, was for their work to end sexual violence as a weapon of war -- work which was highlighted in interviews with "60 Minutes."
Murad, a member of the Muslim minority Yazidi sect, was forced into slavery and raped by ISIS terrorists after her village in Iraq was destroyed and family members killed.
Simone Monasebian, Director of the New York office of UNODC, told diplomats, "a lot has been done on human trafficking, but we still have a long way to go."