Since the onset of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, there is evidence of a surge in human traffickers using technology platforms to prey on victims. As individuals become more reliant on and accustomed to cell phones and computers, traffickers have learned how to exploit an increasing number of human trafficking victims – both adults and children — via livestream on the internet. As a result, the global community must band together to use advanced satellite technology to combat human trafficking. Thanks to its pioneering work in the space industry, Luxembourg is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in that effort.
Traffickers have long been using technology to recruit victims – trolling through social media trying to start conversations with potential victims, hoping to lure them into sex trafficking or forced labor. As in the past, victims are targeted for recruitment, offered work, and threatened with blackmail; however with modern technology, traffickers will use video surveillance to monitor and also advertise their victims (US Mission to the OSCE). Traffickers exploit women and men, girls and boys, citizens and non-citizens, and people of any faith or from any region of the world. Victims tend to be the most vulnerable population including runaways and homeless people, children and adults who have experienced abuse and trauma, migrant workers, members of the LGBTQI+ community, particularly transgender adults and children, face high risks of exploitation. Although many countries have adopted anti-trafficking legislations and drafted national action plans, adapting those efforts to match the ever-evolving nature of human trafficking is of critical importance. One possible way to turn the tide in this fight is the use of satellite technology. In recent years, the international space industry has made breakthroughs in using satellite technology to locate traffickers and their victims. These satellites, in conjunction with a knowledge of the region, are programmed to calculate human trafficking hotspots and infrastructure. In one instance, the satellite technology located a high risk of forced labor in a fishery located off the shores of Bangkok, Thailand. According to Reuters, “26% of about 16,000 industrial fishing vessels analyzed were at high risk of using forced labor.” ( )
As countries move toward the use of satellites as the future of anti-trafficking efforts, Luxembourg is well placed to lead the world community in this new realm of technology. Indeed, Luxembourg hosts nearly 50 space-related companies and its very own Luxembourg Space Agency. According to , Luxembourg has crafted the legal framework to conduct numerous space activities and attract space-related companies to settle in the country. Luxembourg has become well-known for its multilateral cooperation in the space realm, including partnerships with Belgium, Japan, China, and the United Arab Emirates. This diplomatic history means that Luxembourg is likely to work with other countries in fighting human trafficking, especially since it is no stranger to the fight itself. Luxembourg has even adopted its own centered on protecting victims, prosecuting traffickers, and creating a strategy to prevent this crime from happening.
Whether it’s a pandemic or another world crisis, traffickers do not shut down – and we must not either. Using superior technology against traffickers is an effective way to locate hotspots and combat human trafficking operations happening in those locations. If the world community wants to combat human trafficking, it must encourage and support Luxembourg’s ability to use its vital technological and diplomatic resources to flip the script on human traffickers and use technology for good.
About the Author: Grace Kruis is an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg. She is attending her third year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio studying Global Politics and Diplomacy with an interest in journalism. She is passionate about human rights and hopes to someday attend law school and later on join the U.S. Department of State.