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Japan: “Human trafficking affects every country,” warns UN expert

17 July 2009

TOKYO – “Human trafficking affects every country of the world, and Japan is clearly affected as a destination country for many of those victims,” said Friday the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, at the end of her mission to Japan, which took place from 12th to 17th July 2009.

“Although trafficking for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation constitute the vast majority of the recorded cases in Japan, trafficking for labour exploitation is also of great concern,” pointed out the human rights expert in her preliminary findings and recommendations.

Ngozi Ezeilo noted, in this regard, that the Japanese Government recognizes the seriousness of the problem and has taken important steps, including the adoption of a National Plan of Action on trafficking. More recently, victims have also been granted the right to a special residence permit if they wish to stay in Japan.

The Special Rapporteur also recognized the efforts undertaken by the Government to cooperate with sending countries to support the reintegration of victims in their home countries. Moreover, with regard to international cooperation, it has established a Joint Task force between Japan and Thailand to combat trafficking,

Nevertheless, the UN independent expert notes that there are challenges that Japan must address in order to effectively combat trafficking in human beings occurring within its borders and affecting both its citizens and foreign nationals.

Among them, the Special Rapporteur highlights the non-ratification of relevant international treaties; the unclear identification procedure which may lead to mis-identification of victims of trafficking; the lack of appropriate shelters with adequate assistance to victims of trafficking; the abuses within the foreign trainees programme; and the lack of appropriate training of and coordination among relevant law enforcement officials.

In this regard, the Special Rapporteur shared some preliminary recommedations, including the urgent ratification of relevant international treaties; establishing a national rapporteur office on trafficking; strengthening labour inspections; strengthening the services provided to victims of trafficking; creating a special fund for compensations; and improving partnerships between government agencies and NGO’s

Ngozi Ezeilo also encouraged Japan to take more action and leadership at the regional level in the fight against trafficking, and to consider the adoption of bilateral agreements with source countries to tackle the human trafficking problem on a long term basis.

The Special Rapporteur believes that it is imperative to adopt a comprehensive and holistic approach to combat this phenomenon, and that strategies for combating trafficking should rest on “the ‘5 P’s’ and ‘3 R’s’ - Protection, Prosecution, Punishment, Prevention, Promotion (of international cooperation), Redress, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of victims to assume a constructive role in the society.”