Fighting human trafficking is not just about law enforcement” – UN rights expert

Geneva, 28 July 2015 – Speaking ahead of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, United Nations human rights expert Maria Grazia Giammarinaro calls for sweeping changes in policy and on perception of trafficking. Fighting trafficking is not just about law enforcement, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children reminds governments across the world.

“After more than a decade of efforts aimed at combatting trafficking in persons, we have to recognize that results are still modest. The vast majority of trafficked persons –an estimated 20 million people globally- are not recognized as such, and as a result do not have access to justice and remedies.

Trafficking means extreme exploitation of women, men and children who are socially and economically vulnerable. To tackle the gross human rights violations trafficking entails, a policy shift is needed, and the same perception of trafficking in persons should change.

So far, trafficking has been considered mostly a law enforcement issue. Today, we should look at trafficking as an economic and social issue, linked with global trends including migration. Therefore prevention is key.

To prevent trafficking in persons, national authorities should deal with a broader area of exploitation, in the sex industry, in agriculture, fishery, domestic work, garments, and the tourist industry.

Governments and the private sector must prevent and combat all types of exploitation wherever and whenever it takes place, and tackle the driving factors of exploitation. Among them, one of the most powerful is the lack of regular channels for migration.

In that regard, policy coherence is essential: the fight against trafficking is incompatible with restrictive migration policies that place people in a situation of irregularity and vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking.

Furthermore, within mixed migration flows, an increasing number of people migrate to flee from conflict and protracted crisis. Increased international cooperation is needed to ensure that people entitled to international protection are offered a viable solution in one of their preferred countries.

However, in the current situation, people fleeing persecution, war or other emergencies are amongst the most vulnerable, often exposed to the risk of trafficking, including children traveling alone, women and girls who are raped during the journey and exploited in prostitution at destination, men, women and children obliged to accept inhuman working conditions to survive.

This is the policy shift which is much needed today: to prevent trafficking and to uphold trafficked persons’ rights, it is necessary to protect the rights of all migrants, and of all vulnerable people, be them foreigners or nationals.

Once someone is recognized as being subjected to exploitation and/or trafficking, she/he should have immediate access to legal counseling, healthcare, and tailored forms of assistance, in order to be able to claim their rights.

These opportunities should be given without any condition. No legal requirements should be established which actually denies exploited and trafficked persons their right to access justice and remedies.

Trafficking takes place because enormous economic interests lie behind exploitation of the global poor. However, this can be stopped, if people of good will – both powerful people and simple citizens – feel that trafficking is morally and socially unacceptable, and take action against exploitation, injustice, and human rights violations.”