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Walls and laws against irregular migration are no match for human trafficking – UN expert

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons - Saturday 30 July 2016

GENEVA (29 July 2015) – Speaking ahead of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on Saturday 30 July, United Nations human rights expert Maria Grazia Giammarinaro urged all States to protect people, particularly women and children, from trafficking in persons, and made a special appeal to those countries hosting victims and potential victims of trafficking among persons fleeing conflict around the world.

“Walls, fences and laws criminalising irregular migration do not prevent human trafficking; on the contrary, they increase the vulnerabilities of people fleeing conflict, persecution, crisis situations and extreme poverty, who can fall easy prey to traffickers and exploiters.

Women and girls raped and sexually exploited during their journey, often pregnant, men who have lost all their possessions and are indebted with their smugglers and bound to work without a salary for years, children begging or working to support their families in precarious circumstances, children travelling alone sent by their families abroad in the hope of a better future: all these people trying to reach a safe place, during their journey have probably been already subjugated by traffickers, or are at high risk of being trafficked.
Over the past years thousands of people including many children fleeing conflict have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea.  In the first half of 2016 only, the International Organization for Migration estimated 2.856 deaths or missing persons. Such tragedies have fostered enormous emotion and solidarity in the public opinion, but unfortunately have not substantially changed the terms of the discussion at the government level.

The Syrian conflict in particular is causing a massive exodus that should be seen as a global humanitarian crisis, which requires a shared responsibility approach at the European and international level.

Unfortunately, EU countries have mostly failed to detect trafficked persons and address protection needs among people fleeing the Syrian and other conflicts. Some countries have adopted restrictive approaches, which exacerbated vulnerabilities of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to human trafficking.

States should establish or  adapt existing procedures and services aimed at providing assistance and protection, including gender- and child-sensitive measures, to victims of trafficking, and consider extending some assistance measures – especially help for job opportunities - to people at risk of trafficking and exploitation.

Such national procedures and mechanisms should be established, in close cooperation with civil society organizations, in all hotspots, reception and administrative detention centers, where situations of trafficking and risk of trafficking and exploitation can be detected and addressed.

It is time to take action, and put in place policies based on shared responsibilities, aimed at ensuring survival, relocation and social inclusion of people fleeing conflict, and preventing trafficking and exploitation in the context of mixed migration flows of people.”

Ms. 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. She served as a Pre-Trial Judge at the Criminal Court of Rome, and currently serves as a Judge in the Civil 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 (+41 22 917 9108  / svadala@ohchr.org) or write to srtrafficking@ohchr.org 

For donations to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons and the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery and possible grants, please refer to http://www.unodc.org/unodc/human-trafficking-fund.html and http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/UNVTFCFS/Pages/WhattheFundis.aspx

You can access this media statement at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20320&LangID=E

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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