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Report Human Trafficking

Mr. Luca Dall’Oglio was our speaker on the topic of human trafficking. As the Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to the UN, he was particularly dedicated to the issue.

Mr. Dall’Oglio explained how crucial this topic was at the United Nations, even though it is usually unknown to the public. Human trafficking is intertwined with many other issues: labor, Human Rights, refugees, migration, and development. In his view, a major problem was that human trafficking had not found its place within the UN system; it was not addressed directly, but remained a transversal issue.

However, things are changing: In September 2006, a High Level Dialogue on International Migration will take place at UN Headquarters in New York. This will be the first meeting especially devoted to migration and an opportunity not to be missed according to Mr. Dall’Oglio. In the past, the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Migration had been much broader in its content; only one chapter had been dedicated to migration as such. He outlined that the goal of the upcoming meeting was to implement a common platform in order to set a global coordinated agenda around four main aspects: human trafficking, governance for migration, Human Rights and environment.

According to Mr. Dall’Oglio, the international system still lacked a true regime against human trafficking. Today, there are only two important texts of international law:

  • The Convention on Migrant Workers (1990) has been ratified by only 33 UN Member States, among which was no immigration country. Most of the time, states did not go further than merely stating principles without implementing them in national law.
  • The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000), has so far been ratified by 97 countries.

Our speaker asked why there was so much trafficking in spite of the existing conventions and went on to answer his own question by stating that a lack of either capacities or political will were the reasons. On the other hand, ratification as a strong binding instrument meant an open door to international control and monitoring, and the international community could offer its capacities to help a state to comply with its commitment.

He explained that trafficking should be distinguished carefully from smuggling, where the individual crossing borders illegally was master of the process and did it on his own. In the case of trafficking, the victims were in a position of submission to the trafficker. In this respect, trafficking was a violation of Human Rights, often combined with forced labor, the violation of the freedom of movement, and physical or mental coercion. Human trafficking could also occur within a country, as it had happened with children in Ghana, who had been sold by their own parents to fishing communities, or in Mozambique, where children had been enrolled as soldiers during the civil war and abandoned after demobilization. Unfortunately, this was likely to happen in Liberia as well. In developed countries, human trafficking could also take the form of forced begging, he described. The particular difficulty and challenge was therefore to take into account the interest of the child since the family might have been involved in the crime.

Mr. Dall’Oglio outlined some misperceptions: Victims of human trafficking were not only women subject to sexual exploitation, but more and more children and young men. Trafficking was not only an international phenomenon, and traffickers were not only men since some women who had been exploited might have turned into traffickers themselves.

What can the United Nations do against human trafficking? According to Mr. Dall’Oglio, there were essentially two aspects:

  • Prevention: To inform and alert target groups likely to be victims of trafficking (young populations, specific social background and geographic situations); to offer alternatives and re-channel their aspirations to leave their country through legal migration programs and re-employment.
  • Protection: To alleviate the victims’ situation, create shelters and alternative socializing environments, implement medical and psychological assistance. Sometimes, a new identity had to be created when families might be exposed to retaliation. In European law, programs had been implemented to stay in the country and promote paths to reintegration.

The next step the UN could take was an evaluation of what had worked or not worked in Eastern Europe, especially Albania, he explained. Furthermore, the coordination among UN agencies like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had to be improved to bring expertise into the field and reach better efficiency.

Due to his complex and detailed presentation, we were not able to ask Mr. Dall’Oglio any further questions at the end of the briefing. Still, we all had the feeling that we had learned a lot concerning human trafficking.

Maxime Alimi