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Poverty, inequality, discrimination – Let’s stop human trafficking at the roots

European Anti-Trafficking Day - Saturday 18 October 2014

GENEVA (18 October 2014) – Three United Nations human rights experts* today called for a concerted global response to fight the transnational scourge of trafficking in persons, speaking ahead of the European Anti-Trafficking Day on Saturday 18 October.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on trafficking, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, contemporary forms of slavery, Urmila Bhoola, sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, and migrants, Francois Crépeau, warned that far too many victims of human trafficking, including children victims, end up in exploitative or even slavery-like conditions.

“A trafficking situation may in certain context start as a migration process. On occasions, the victim may not necessarily be kidnapped or forced from the beginning. But migrant smuggling often results either in a fatal or nightmarish journey.

Many perish across borders and at sea, trying to reach places they believe will offer a better living, or at unsafe worksites like during construction of major infrastructure developments projects. Tragically, even those who make it across can become victims of trafficking, extreme exploitation, and slavery-like practices.

Some migrants who managed to survive the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea ­– a journey that, according to a new IOM report, has claimed more than 3,000 lives­ this year alone – have been subsequently found in exploitative or even slavery-like conditions in European countries.

All over the world, child trafficking – often connected to the sale and sexual exploitation of children – is on the rise as a proportion of all human trafficking. Detected cases of child trafficking represent 27 per cent of human trafficking. And, in recent years, the increase has been greater for girls: two out of every three child victims are young girls.

Trafficking is a grave violation of human rights, yet it remains pervasive because its eradication requires coordinated efforts to address its root causes across multiple sectors. It is of paramount importance that countries of origin, transit, and destination, work together to tackle poverty, inequality, discrimination, and other factors causing vulnerability.

It is crucial that they work together to change their policies and practices – especially in the areas of labour, migration and child protection – that end up enhancing rather than reducing the precariousness in which many of these persons find themselves.

Efforts to stop and punish traffickers and smugglers are critical, but it is also important that they do not come at the cost of migrants rights. In certain context, police operations might have the unintended consequence of pushing migrants deeper into clandestinity, thus entrenching criminal rings and exploitative employers.

States’ authorities must ensure that victims of trafficking, irregular migrants or asylum seekers in an irregular situation are not treated as criminals. Victims of trafficking must enjoy their human rights, while the principle of non-refoulement of asylum seekers has to be respected.

To mark the 8th European Anti-Trafficking Day, we urge all Governments to adopt a universal human rights-based approach to end human trafficking in the world today and to protect those most vulnerable to these abhorrent practices now.”

(*) The experts: Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and Francois Crepeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Learn more, visit:
Human trafficking: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Trafficking/Pages/TraffickingIndex.aspx
Contemporary forms of slavery: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/SRSlaveryIndex.aspx
Sale and sexual exploitation of children: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx
Migrants: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/SRMigrants/Pages/SRMigrantsIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Thibaut Guillet (+41 22 917 9389 / tguillet@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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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en