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‘They know they will be exploited during their journey’ – New UN report on human trafficking

(GENEVA, 19 June 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, called on governments across the world to fully recognize the rights of trafficked persons, “who are entitled to assistance, protection and access to justice and remedies regardless of their residence status or whether perpetrators are identified, investigated or prosecuted.”

“Not all migrants are trafficked. However, a significant portion of migrants are trafficked but are not recognised as such by national authorities,” the expert stated in her latest report* to the Human Rights Council, in which she reminds States of their obligation to ensure policy coherence between anti-trafficking policies and migration and asylum policies.

“Moreover, a much greater portion of migrants are at high risk of being trafficked, especially when they are forced to leave their countries as a consequence of conflicts, violence, persecution, torture or other human rights violations, or extreme poverty,” she warned.

Ms. Giammarinaro stressed that the fight against trafficking, forced labour or slavery “is hampered by criminalisation and detention of migrants, restrictive migration policies denying any opportunity to migrate regularly including for work purposes, or not allowing migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to work regularly once in the country.”

In her report, the human rights expert stresses that governments should be aware that pushing back people fleeing conflicts not only is contrary to their international obligations, but also results in denying trafficked persons the possibility to claim their rights.

“People entering a migration process, or being smuggled, can become exploited and trafficked during their journey, or at destination, because of their social vulnerability,” she said. “People crossing the sea, if they survive their perilous journey, are very likely to be severely exploited, as we can see in agriculture, construction, domestic work, touristic industry, or in prostitution, in various areas of the world.

“Migrants are often deprived of any belongings during their journey, many are subject to inhuman treatment during their stay in transit countries, waiting for a further journey, women and girls get often raped and sexually exploited,” the expert noted. “Some migrants are even aware that they are going to be sold to someone else, who will exploit them.

In order to prevent and fight against trafficking, Ms. Giammarinaro urged States to address a broader area of exploitation and social vulnerabilities, and adopt effective measures, based on international agreement and cooperation, aimed at ensuring safe and regular channels of migration, effective asylum policies, and social inclusion of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

In view of the recent tragedies involving migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and in South East Asia, the Special Rapporteur told the UN Human Rights Council she will address –as a priority- the link between trafficking and migration, as well as the link between trafficking and conflict, post conflict and other crisis situations.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/HRC/29/38): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Trafficking/Pages/Annual.aspx

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, 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. Ms. Giammarinaro has been a Judge since 1991 and currently serves as a Pre-Trial Judge at the Criminal Court of Rome. She was the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the OSCE, and served in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security in Brussels, where she was responsible for combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. She drafted the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Trafficking/Pages/TraffickingIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Selma Vadala (svadala@ohchr.org / +41 22 917 9108) 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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