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Trafficked persons deserve effective remedies as victims of rights violations, UN expert says

GENEVA (1 June 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, warned that “trafficked persons are often seen as ‘instruments’ of criminal investigation, rather than as holders of rights.” Concerned of the gap between the law and the practice, the expert reiterated that “as victims of human rights violations, trafficked persons have the right to an effective remedy for harms committed against them.”

“In many States, trafficked persons do not receive remedies in a holistic manner as a matter of right, but are only provided with ad hoc measures which are predominantly aimed at facilitating criminal investigation,” said Ms. Ezeilo during the presentation of her report of the right to an effective remedy for trafficked persons* to the UN Human Rights Council. The independent expert was critical of such ad hoc measures as temporary residence permits contingent upon cooperation with law enforcement authorities and recovery assistance which is in turn tied to temporary residence permits.

“Trafficked persons are rarely known to have received compensation, as they are often not provided with the information, legal and other assistance and residence status necessary to access it,” the Special Rapporteur said. “At worst, many trafficked persons are wrongly identified as irregular migrants, detained and deported before they have an opportunity to even consider seeking remedies.”

In her report, Ms. Ezeilo recommends -as a first step- that States “ensure that adequate procedures are in place to enable quick and accurate identification of trafficked persons” in order to prevent any misidentification of trafficked persons as irregular migrants and subsequent detention and deportation, which effectively preclude them from seeking compensation.

“States should ensure that trafficked persons are equipped with access to information, free legal aid and other necessary assistance such as interpretation services, and regular residence status during the duration of any legal proceedings,” recommended the Special Rapporteur as a strategy to enhance access to compensation by trafficked persons.

Ms. Ezeilo also advised States to provide trafficked persons with temporary or permanent residence permits as a remedy in itself, “where a safe return to the country of origin is not guaranteed or a return would not otherwise be in the best interests of the trafficked person for reasons related to his or her personal circumstances, such as the loss of citizenship or cultural and social identity in the country of origin.”

Further to her conclusions and recommendations, the Special Rapporteur presented the “Draft basic principles on the right to an effective remedy for trafficked persons” in Annex I of the report for further consideration by States.

(*) Check the full report by the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A-HRC-17-35.pdf

ENDS

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo assumed her functions as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children on 1 August 2008. Ms. Ezeilo is a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria. She has also served in various governmental capacities, including as Honourable Commissioner for Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development in Enugu State and as a Delegate to the National Political Reform Conference. She has consulted for various international organizations and is also involved in several NGOs, particularly working on women’s rights. She has published extensively on a variety of topics, including human rights, women’s rights, and Sharia law. Ms. Ezeilo was conferred with a national honour (Officer of the Order of Nigeria) in 2006 for her work as a human right defender.

Learn more about the mandate and activities of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/trafficking/index.htm

For more information and media requests, please contact Junko Tadaki (Tel: +41 22 917 9298 / email: jtadaki@ohchr.org) or write to srtraffiking@ohchr.org.

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