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Seeking ways to eliminate human trafficking in Niger

The International Organization for Migration estimates that, each year, between eight-hundred thousand and one million people are the victims of the third most lucrative illegal activity on the planet, after the illegal sale arms and drugs. This activity is human trafficking.

A young girl gold panning on the terrain of an illegal gold mine, July 2012 © EPA/Helmut FohringerMen, women and children are recruited, transferred, harboured or received through the use of force or deception, to be exploited into prostitution rings, forced labour, domestic servitude or removal of their organs. The lack of national legislation against human trafficking, corruption or victims’ fear of retaliation makes for a low-risk enterprise for traffickers.

Over the past few years, Niger has shifted from being a platform for the transit of trafficked persons in West Africa to a country of origin and destination. This evolution prompted the Government to enact a law on human trafficking in 2010, following the State’s ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The Government has also vowed to create a National Commission and a National Agency for the Coordination of the Fight against Trafficking in Persons.

The latest law and other national, regional and international treaties were at the centre of a workshop in Niamey in July 20012 that brought together the UN Human Rights presence in Niger, the Bar Association, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Country Team.

Participants noted that despite national efforts and the regional and international legal arsenal to combat human trafficking, prosecuting traffickers and bringing an end to the practice would not be an easy task.

“Human trafficking is one of the gravest human rights violations. Hundreds of thousands of people are lured by recruiters’ false promises and transported across borders to be economically exploited and sexually abused,” said the Resident Coordinator ad interim and World Health Organization Representative to Niger, Tarande Manzila. “Their survival and development are threatened, as well as their rights to education, health, and protection from exploitation and abuse.”

Victims, often living a life in poverty, are lured by traffickers with empty promises of employment, or deceived on the real nature of the activity they will engage in. Traffickers also exert pressure on their victims using isolation, violence and intimidation as a means to silence them. Some are not aware they are the victims of a serious crime. All these factors make the identification of trafficked persons and the prosecution of perpetrators even harder.

It used to be customary for parents in Niger to safely place their children in the care of relatives without fear of them being exploited. Over time, this tradition has been corrupted.

“These unparalleled criminals unfortunately often operate with impunity, sometimes with the active complicity of the population, even of parents sharpened by the throes of poverty and ignorance, and deeply attached to corrupted positive cultural values,” said the Minister of Justice, Marou Amadou.

Participants at the workshop made a series of recommendations which will inform the response of the Government of Niger to human trafficking. These included recruiting more personnel to reinforce the National Agency for the Coordination of the Fight against Trafficking in Persons in Niger, as well as creating a national fund to help victims of human trafficking. They also advocated for greater cooperation between States in the region.

26 September 2012

See also