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More efforts needed to address the root causes of trafficking in persons in the Philippines, warns UN expert

MANILA / GENEVA (13 November 2012) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Joy Ngozi Ezeilo welcomed the strong commitment shown by the Philippines in its fight against trafficking in persons, but warned that a number of challenges must be addressed by the Government if it is to succeed in effectively combating trafficking and protecting the human rights of trafficked persons.

“The Government of the Philippines should strengthen implementation of measures to combat trafficking in persons while promoting safe migration for development,” Ms. Ezeilo said at the end of her official visit* to the Philippines, the first by an independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims.

“Root causes of trafficking, particularly poverty and demands for cheap and exploitative labour are not being effectively addressed,” the human rights expert said. “This has perpetuated the abuse of human rights of Filipinos abroad, as well as in the country, who are exposed to exploitation and extortion by brokers, employers and the law enforcement agents.”

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity, victimizing millions of women, children and men all over the world as it knows no border. Almost every country of the world is affected either as a source, transit, and/or destination country for women, children, and men trafficked for the purposes of sexual or labour exploitation, including domestic servitude and bonded labour. Trafficking occurs within and across national borders, often with one consignment of people crossing many borders to reach their final destination.

“The Philippines is undoubtedly a source country for human trafficking with its citizens being trafficked in different parts of the world, mainly owing to the socio-economic conditions prevailing in different parts of the country, including growing poverty, youth unemployment and gender inequalities, discrimination, and gender based violence, especially against women and girls,” Ms. Ezeilo noted, adding that the situation is further driven by armed conflict, clan feuding and natural disasters.

The Special Rapporteur urged the Filipino authorities to keep building upon the significant progress made in efforts to address trafficking in persons in the country, but stressed that “measures to prevent trafficking will not be effective or sustainable unless the underlying social, economic and political factors that create an environment conducive to trafficking are addressed.”

“Trafficking in persons is a dynamic process, caused by an array of complex and intertwined ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. Thus, the prevention of trafficking in persons requires truly concerted and collaborative efforts by all stakeholders”, she said.

Ms. Ezeilo drew special attention to the fact that “strategies aimed at preventing trafficking in persons must address underlying factors that render people vulnerable to trafficking, such as poverty, lack of employment opportunities, sex discrimination and inequality, war and conflict.”

During her five-day mission, the rights expert visited Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga, where she met with representatives of various Government agencies and the judiciary, as well as members of international and local civil society organizations, and victims of trafficking.

The Special Rapporteur’s findings and recommendations will be presented in a report at a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo started her mandate as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children in August 2008. Ms. Ezeilo is a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria. She has served in various governmental capacities and consulted for various international organizations, and is currently 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.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12771&LangID=E

Learn more about the mandate and activities of the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Trafficking/Pages/TraffickingIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Philippines: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/PHIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Teresa L. Debuque (+632 336 7720 / teresa.debuque@unic.org) or Meena Ramkaun (+41 79 444 4702 / mramkaun@ohchr.org) or write to srtrafficking@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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