WHEN ANGER IS APPROPRIATE
Anger is perhaps not just forgivable but highly appropriate, after reading the following report on 21st century slavery. But emotion is always misplaced unless the facts are themselves objective, well sourced and sensibly interpreted. Thus our report refers to "Europe's Modern Slave Trade - Human Trafficking" - rather than the long existing Latin America-to-USA traffic; or the equally heinous intra-Asian variety, to which of course we make reference. This is partly because in Europe, this scandal is probably newer with the collapse of communism. Thus it is reasonably well documented.
We also make a distinction between regrettable male and female 'human smuggling,' where those often economic refugees being smuggled, are complicit with their smugglers. This we see as distinct from the unmitigated
evil of old-fashioned slavery, where an unwilling victim, often a stolen child or helpless young woman, is under the control and at the disposal of the trafficker.
But also we refer to Europe because the remit of newnations.com is to report the affairs of currently forty-five 'nations in transition,' and we name here several of those nations as being involved. Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. All these are named in this report as being the greatest sources of trafficked victims.
A current exhibition of worldwide human trafficking in the Museum of World Culture in Sweden's Gothenburg, reports amongst other fearsome details:
that parents in rural Albania were "refusing to send their children to school for fear that traffickers will kidnap them" - the majority of those trafficked being under eighteen - that
"this accelerating business is mainly exploiting women and girls for sexual purposes".
Albania has ambitions to join the EU. Bulgaria ALREADY HAS BEEN ADMITTED! Yet it is at government level that the necessary action must be taken to eliminate this 21st century outrage. It must be up to international groups such as the EU, to which these nations belong or seek to belong, to apply the pressure and if necessary sanctions, to bring an end to a scandal that should frighten every parent that reads this - and which shames us all.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Europe's Modern Slave trade
Nature and Causes
Trafficking human beings, a particularly shameful form of exploitation, is not a new phenomenon, despite its recent notoriety in the world's media. From African villages to East European cities, people in search of a better life are lured by the prospect of a well-paid job as a waitress, domestic servant or factory worker, especially where there are poverty and a lack of employment opportunities at home. The victims may come from all levels of society but they are often from the most vulnerable groups such as refugees, runaways and other displaced persons.
A distinction has to be drawn between human trafficking and 'people-smuggling'. In the latter case, people ask for the smuggler's service in return for payment. Upon arrival at the required destination, they are usually free. The trafficked victims, on the other hand, continue to be under the control of the trafficker. They may be physically confined, their travel and identity documents are taken away and they or their families may be threatened. The trafficker often exploits the victims' fear that, if they ask for help from the authorities in their country to which they have been trafficked, they will be prosecuted or deported.
Because of gender inequality, women and young girls are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. False promises in an advertisement or mail-order bride catalogue of well-paid legitimate work in the hotel and catering industry, or in au pair work, may appear to be an attractive financial opportunity. When they arrive at their country of destination, the agents or brokers, who arranged their travel and work, escort them to their employers. It is only then that they discover they have been deceived about the nature of the work they are expected to do. Some child victims of trafficking may be forced into slave labour in sweatshops, sexually exploited or, in some cases, coerced into being child soldiers. Men who are trafficked may also find themselves working in appalling working conditions in factories or on farms.
The causes of human trafficking are many and varied. People may wish to escape poverty in their own country and perceive better economic opportunities elsewhere. Lack of employment prospects, political instability or armed conflict at home all serve as incentives to seek better prospects abroad. Whatever the reasons, it has to be remembered that the labour and services provided by trafficked victims are driven by demand from the overseas countries that receive them.
The Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (the 'Palermo Convention') was adopted by the United Nations in 2000 and has been effective since 2003. The Convention was supplemented by two 'Palermo Protocols':
the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children and
the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air
'Trafficking in persons' is defined by the first protocol as meaning the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for purpose of exploitation. Exploitation includes prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
The sad reality is that human trafficking is big business and, after arms sales and drug dealing, the fastest growing criminal industry. Porous borders and advancing communication technologies make this transnational business highly lucrative. The huge profits to be gained far outweigh the small risk of being caught and prosecuted. Estimates vary but the UN and other experts put the total market value of illicit human trafficking at around $32 billion dollars, $10 billion of which is derived from the 'sale' of trafficked victims. The rest is profit from the goods and services produced by the victims. The US State Department estimates 600,000 - 820,000 people per annum are trafficked across national borders. 80% of victims are thought to be women and girls and 50% minors.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that 12.3 million people around the world are in forced labour.
However, the nature of this clandestine and criminal trade is such that statistics are speculative and are therefore notoriously unreliable. To quote UNESCO:
"When it comes to statistics, trafficking of girls and women is one of several highly emotive issues which seem to overwhelm critical faculties. Numbers take on a life of their own, gaining acceptance through repetition, often with little enquiry into their derivations. Journalists, bowing to the pressures of editors, demand numbers, any number. Organisations feel compelled to supply them, lending false precisions and spurious authority to many reports."
OneWorld.net, an American-based NGO agrees: "Trafficking in human beings is a global issue, but a lack of systematic research means that reliable data on the trafficking of human beings that would allow comparative analyses and the design of countermeasures is
Whatever the statistics, there are, alas, innumerable documented accounts of human trafficking from Latin America to the USA and from poor Asian to rich Asian countries. In Europe, the collapse of communism, gave rise to trafficking from poorer eastern European countries to the richer west. A recent report called 'Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns' by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) identifies Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy as the most common European destinations. Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine are among the countries that are the greatest source of trafficked victims.
(http://www.unodc.org/pdf/Trafficking_toolkit_Oct06.pdf). A brief survey of these poorer countries in Europe serves to illustrate the nature of the problem.
Albania is a country of origin for the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation. According to the US State Department trafficking in Persons Report of June 2007
(www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/), victims are trafficked to Greece and Italy and many are trafficked onward to the U.K., France, Belgium, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands. Albania is no longer considered a major country of transit nor is it a country of destination for traffickers.
Bulgaria is described by the report as a country of transit and destination for men and women. They are trafficked from Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Armenia to Bulgaria. From there, they may be trafficked to Spain, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Macedonia for sexual exploitation purposes. Bulgarian women and men are trafficked to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey for sexual exploitation and forced labour. Roma children are also trafficked within Bulgaria and abroad to many west European countries for forced begging and petty theft purposes. Of the identified trafficking victims in Bulgaria, about 20% are children.
Belarus is another major source and transit country in Europe for trafficking of women for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Men and women are trafficked from and through Bulgaria to countries in Western, Central and Eastern Europe and beyond to such countries as the USA, Turkey and Turkmenistan. A small number of Moldovans are trafficked to Belarus to be used as forced labour.
Moldova, is a major source, and to a lesser extent a transit country for the trafficking of women and girls to the Middle East, the Balkans and Europe for sexual exploitation, according to the International Organisation for Migration, a leading intergovernmental organisation in the field of migration.
(http://gvnet.com/humantrafficking/Moldova.htm). A report by the UN in December 2003 revealed that Moldovan children were being trafficked to Russia for begging and to Ukraine for working on farms.
Ukraine is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking men, women and children for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. Ukrainian women are trafficked to all parts of Europe and to the Middle East. Women from Central Asian countries, such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are trafficked through Ukraine to Europe. Ukraine is also a destination for people from the former Soviet republics for forced labour and prostitution. Ukrainian children are trafficked internally and transnationally for commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced labour in the agriculture industry.
National and International Action
To combat human trafficking requires action by national governments, international agencies and NGOs. National legislation can be a useful weapon. If we take as an example the forced labour and trafficking of children, the Labour Law in Moldova sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years and prohibits children under 18 years from participating in hazardous work. Legal remedies, criminal and civil, exist to enforce the legislation. More specifically, the Moldovan constitution prohibits forced labour and the exploitation of minors. This is punishable by imprisonment under the Criminal Code.
The existence of laws is no guarantee of their enforcement. This requires the political will of governments to give law enforcement priority and to allocate the sufficient resources. Governments have to ensure co-operation and co-ordination between the country's law enforcement agencies. It is essential that they in turn work with appropriate non-government organisations (NGOs). Governments can also use the media, films, posters etc. to raise awareness among potential victims. However, a global problem requires global solutions. No country is immune, whether as a source, a transit point or a destination for the victims of human trafficking.
At the international level, a
number of United Nations agencies are involved in
the issues of human trafficking. UNICEF is
especially interested in child trafficking.
The UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees) and UNICRI (the United Nations
Interregional Crime and Justice Research
work with the UNODC (The United Nations Office on
Drugs and Crime). www.unodc.org/trafficking_human_beings.html
The UNESCO Trafficking Statistics Project http://www.unescobkk.org/index
is reviewing the literature on trafficking by
evaluating the validity of available statistics.
In 1999, the United Nations
launched its Global Programme against Trafficking
in Human Beings. It was designed by UNODC in
collaboration with UNICRI to assist member states
in their efforts to combat human trafficking. The
programme's main objective is to highlight the
involvement of criminal groups and to promote the
development of effective responses by the criminal
justice system in different countries. www.unodc.org/trafficking_human_beings.html
This year UNODC in conjunction with other UN agencies, governments and NGOs launched the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Fittingly, 2007 is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The ultimate goal of the Initiative is the end of human trafficking. Meanwhile, it aims to raise public awareness of the problem, to co-ordinate the disparate efforts by national and international groups, governments, NGOs and individuals to put an end to human trafficking. Greater enforcement of existing law by governments is necessary. The UN Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons (mentioned above) has been in effect for nearly four years, 120 states have signed it and 110 states have ratified it, but few countries have taken effective steps to enforce it.
In Europe, the Council of Europe
adopted the Convention on Action against
Trafficking in Human Beings in 2005. www.coe.int/t/DG2/TRAFFICKING/campaign/default_en.asp
It too aims to raise awareness of the extent of
the problem and the preventative measures that can
be taken. It also highlights the measures that can
be taken to protect the human rights of victims
and to prosecute the offenders. So far 36 nations
have signed the convention but only seven have so
far ratified it.
NGOs differ in their approaches
to trafficking because it is such a multi-faceted
problem (involving gender inequality, poverty,
forced labour, crime networks etc.) They tend to
campaign on the three Ps: prevention, prosecution
and protection. Prevention programmes offer jobs
and education. Prosecution means campaigning for
enforcement of the law with strict penalties for
the traffickers. Protection gives victims access
to crisis services, shelters, legal advice and
other such services. Most NGOs concentrate on
education and victim protection services but they
all campaign to help governments develop stronger
anti-trafficking laws. Listed below are some of
the most important of the NGOs involved in
combating human trafficking:
Amnesty International www.amnesty.org
publish reports on trafficking around the world www.amnesty.org/library
American campaign group 'Not For Sale' www.notforsalecampaign.org
Human Rights Watch, US-based, campaigns against
and exposes human trafficking - particularly of
women - around the world http://hrw.org/women/trafficking.html
The Global Alliance against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
is a campaigning alliance of 80 NGOs from around
the world http://www.gaatw.net/
Global Rights is a global human rights advocacy
group which works with local activists to
challenge injustice www.globalrights.org/
It may be appropriate to conclude this survey of human misery by quoting the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2003:
"As unimaginable as it seems, slavery and bondage still persist in the early 21st century. Millions of people around the world still suffer in silence in slave-like situations of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation from which they cannot free themselves. Trafficking in persons is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our
by Peter Crisell, BA