Title: Trade in people: On the cusp of reaching a crisis situation (2) by Tarig Misbah Yousif
Author: Tarig Misbah Yousif
Date: 12-24-2014, 10:41 PM
This article offers a global overview of trafficking in persons. It also discusses the global efforts of combating human trafficking.
Available data shows that trafficking in persons is literally affecting people in every corner of the globe. US Department of State's Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, evaluates governments’ anti-human trafficking endeavours and report on interventions and progress made. The report categorises governments in three tiers, based on government efforts to combat trafficking. The first category comprises countries which abide by the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards. The second category is made up of countries which do not fully comply with the minimum standards to end trafficking in persons, but they are exerting considerable endeavors to do so. The last category includes those countries which do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. Countries in tier 3 are likely to face non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions.
According to the 2014 US Department of State's annual report, Thailand, Malaysia, Columbia, Cyprus and Qatar were relegated to Tier 2 after disclosures of horrendous maltreatment of workers, while Afghanistan and Sudan improved their rating (elevated from Tier 3 to Tier 2). The report also highlighted how survivors of trafficking can become voices of conscience via joining the fight against 'trade in people'.
The 2012 International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) report, estimated that 20.9 million people were victims of forced labour (at the global level), coerced or lured to work in jobs which they cannot leave.
Global efforts to end trade in human beings
The myriad anti-human trafficking bodies which have been set up over the past years have pursued various avenues in a bid to end trading in human beings. Salient among this are the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) and the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking which was convened in Vienna back in 2008. The Forum offered a unique opportunity to bring together representatives of like-minded non-governmental and international organizations, the business sector, the UN, academic institutions, grass root civil society entities and others. Below are some of the measures of combating trafficking in persons:-
1/ legislation: The significance of legislation emanates from the fact that it proved effective in abolishing the slave trade in the past when Britain passed anti-slavery laws back in 1807.
Worldwide, it can be said that there is a plethora of laws and legislations that criminalise human trafficking. The United Nations has been trying for decades to address the issue of human trafficking. The UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others which entered into force in July 1951 was the first UN legal instrument on trafficking in persons. In 2000, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime was entered into force. Despite the fact that these conventions are legally binding, the UN legal instruments lack for the effective enforcement mechanism. This applies to the entire UN legal system including anti-human trafficking conventions.
Notwithstanding, legislations alone cannot solve such an intertwined and complex problem, with gangs running complex and stealth networks literally in every corner of the globe.
Anti-human trafficking legislation reports indicate that there are very small numbers of convicted cases at the global level. One interpretation for the low prosecuted cases is the clandestine nature of trafficking in people. Even obtaining accurate statistics on human trafficking-related matters can be extremely difficult due to the stealthy nature of the criminal practice. Unsurprisingly, available data on human trafficking are by and large based on estimation, and that the anecdotal evidence remains a significant source of primary data on the subject. According to the 2014 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s forthcoming Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, around 15 per cent of countries did not record a single conviction between 2010 and 2012, while 25 per cent only recorded between one and 10 convictions.
2/ Research: Research can be an effective tool in the fight against trafficking in persons. Special research fund has to be allocated in anti-human trafficking budgets. We need to break the cycle of depending on estimated and imprecise figures and sketchy information on issues related to trade in human beings. Research can inform us why there is trade in human beings, what impact does that have on our societies and how can way tackle the problem. Research can also give voice to the voiceless victims and can empower affected vulnerable communities. Grass root societies have to be involved in the fight against trade in people by encouraging them to work as partners with like-minded local organisations. They can do that through participation in training and anti-human trafficking research projects.
3/ Awareness-raising: Awareness-raising about the impact of ’trade in human beings’ on society is crucially important in the fight against the heinous crime of trade in people. Too often grass root and civil society institutions play a pivotal role through setting up robust networks and partnerships. Social media outlets such as Face book and Twitter can also be employed with the view of sensitising and mobilising the general public.
UNODC launched the Blue Heart Campaign back in March 2009. Basically, the Blue Heart Campaign aimed to encourage the general public to become actively engaged in activities aimed at ending the trade in people and to spur them to show their solidarity and synergy with the victims of trafficking in persons. The campaign tried to highlight that trade in people is a crime that robs victims of their fundamental human rights, their worth as human being, their dreams and dignity.
Needless to say, combating a problem with this scale requires committing huge resources. If trade in people is to be thrown in the bin of history, rich countries such as USA and EU member states are required to pump more funds to keep traffickers at bay, particularly in transit countries such as Libya, Malta and Tunisia. Patrolling long and extended coastal areas can be daunting. The use of surveillance technology also needs enormous amounts of money. There is an argument that Europe is not serious about tackling smuggling and trade in persons because they need thousands of age-working immigrants. It is no secret that there is a problem of aging population and declining fertility in the continent. These demographic trends mean that European economies need thousands of working-age people annually to keep the economy going.
Finally, addressing the underlying causes of trafficking in persons is the panacea. Rectifying imbalances in international trade which is biased against the ‘majority world’, realsing a true and meaningful equality and eradicating poverty are crucial if people are serious about making trade in people a thing of the past. However, this requires a robust political will which seems to be lacking at present.
Tarig M. Yousif (PhD) is a freelance researcher in the field of forced migration and human displacement. He worked for many years as an aid worker in refugee camps in Sudan.