IOM Statement at Seminar on Prevention of Trafficking

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Wed, 22 Jul 1998 06:00:06 -0700 (PDT)


Statement by

              Mrs. Narcisa Escaler,
            Deputy Director General
  International Organization for Migration
                        (IOM)

                         at the

 United States -European Union Transatlantic Seminar to Prevent
                   Trafficking in Women

                      L'viv, Ukraine,
                      9-10 July 1998

 

Madam/Mister Chairman,

Distinguished delegates,

INTRODUCTION

I am very pleased to be here with you today in L'viv on the occasion of
the United States-European Union Transatlantic Seminar to Prevent
Trafficking in Women, which IOM has helped organize. I would like to
thank our Ukrainian hosts for their warm hospitality, and their own
contribution to the work we are doing here.

As all of us gathered here in Líviv have realized that, while trafficking in
migrants continues to grow, its more heinous form in the trafficking of
women and children is a phenomenon which has increased at an even
more alarming rate throughout the world. Often organized by criminal
networks, a situation which often involves violence and exploitation of
these women and children, this disturbing development has further
increased the urgency for the international community to better coordinate
their efforts in addressing it. This seminar is an important undertaking
towards this objective.

The kind of co-operation among the European Union, the United States,
the Governments of Poland and Ukraine and all of the other
organizations, particularly the NGOs participating in this seminar is an
encouraging demonstration that trafficking is not just something we talk
about, but also something we are determined to do something about. In
this regard, it will be useful to review our respective experiences and
current initiatives to draw conclusions on how we can more
co-operatively and effectively move to discourage women trafficking and
help its victims.

GENERAL MIGRATION CONTEXT

Distinguished delegates,

Contemporary population movements are characterized by increasing
pressures by individuals seeking through migration either to escape war,
persecution, poverty or human rights violations, or simply to find better
economic opportunities. We also see an increased feminization of general
migratory movements today.

At the same time, many states have imposed stricter border controls and
entry requirements. Thus, in much of the world, the possibilities for legal
migration have decreased, even though considerable demand persists in
destination countries for certain categories of foreign labour. This demand
serves as a pull factor for migration. Parallel to this, well-known push
factors in the form of economic inequalities, conflict, natural disaster and
deprivation of human rights all serve to prompt growing needs and desires
to leave home for a better life elsewhere. One major result of the
interaction of these factors has been an increase in irregular, transborder
movements. This is the irregular phenomenon of which trafficking is but
one part, albeit often a particularly abusive part, especially as it relates to
women and children.

This unabated demand for migration, coupled with stricter entry controls
or requirements, has provided unscrupulous entrepreneurs with a
potential for profit. The number of persons attempting to enter a country
clandestinely has given rise to a market for services such as the provision
of fraudulent travel documents, transportation, guided border crossings,
accommodation and job brokering. Traffickers exploit the phenomenon
of irregular migration and supply these services to would be migrants, and
always at a cost which is usually considerable.

In this connection, the question of the voluntariness of the movement of
trafficked migrants merits particular attention. For many migrants who are
eager to escape poverty or political and social insecurity, and who are
unaware or unmindful of the pitfalls of irregular migration, it seems worth
paying a fee to try their luck, thereby allowing their dream for a better life
to be exploited by traffickers. But, in many instances, trafficked migrants
are lured by false promises, misled by misinformation concerning
migration regulations, or driven by economic despair or large scale
violence. In such cases, the migrant's freedom of choice is so seriously
impaired that the "voluntariness" of the transaction must be questioned.

Today, trafficking in human beings is a global business, generating huge
profits for traffickers and organized crime syndicates, creating serious
problems for governments of the countries involved and potentially
exposing migrants to abuse and exploitation. Traffickers profit from
nonexistent or relatively lax sanctions in many parts of the world, and a
lack of awareness on the part of potential migrants of the dangers of
being trafficked.

TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN

We are of course very much aware that one form of irregular migration
which has become widespread and particularly alarming today is
trafficking in women, the focus of our meeting here in Líviv. This is part of
the broader illegal migration phenomenon yet it differs from other forms of
migrant trafficking. It differs because trafficking in women is also part of
the exploitation of women that has occurred throughout history and
across cultures, and it is an issue of both gender and abuse of basic rights.
Since the individual often gets lost in the aggregate, let me inject a brief
story here. Tatyana is 20 years old. She is from a small town in Lugansk
oblast in Eastern Ukraine. It is impossible for her to get a job there,
because most industrial facilities in town are idle. A friend of her mother
proposed her a housemaid job for a rich family in the United Arab
Emirates. She was promised a $4,000 monthly income there, while at
home she could not find a job that paid even a tiny fraction of that
amount. However, when she arrived in the UAE, she was stripped of her
passport, sold to a brothel and forced to receive clients in order to repay
the fees she supposedly owed to the owner, who bought her for $7,000.
Her nightmare did not end even after she managed to escape: she was
sentenced to three years' imprisonment for working in an underground
brothel after she turned to the police for help. Now Tatyana is eleven
months into her sentence. Her mother, who calls an IOM-sponsored
telephone hotline periodically, is crying for help.

Trafficking in women is a multifaceted problem which has the following 3
elements:

1. Trafficking in women is very much a part of the larger migration
picture. It is subject to the same interplay of supply and demand, and the
same lack of legal migration opportunities, as regular migration. In a
survey on migration intentions of Ukrainian women for example, IOM
found that 40% of the women surveyed were at risk of becoming a victim
of trafficking, as most wanted to leave the country because of
unemployment, poverty or worsening living conditions. Other surveys
done by IOM reveal that demand for women from Eastern Europe and
the NIS is very high in the international commercial sex markets. When
searching therefore for longer term solutions it is important to bear
constantly in mind the root causes of trafficking in women for sexual
exploitation which are: poverty, lack of opportunities, scarce resources,
low status of women in society as well as political and economic
instability. In the longer run, Governments and the international community
must, as they agreed in the Cairo Conference, work closely together to
address these root causes and hopefully make staying at home again a
realistic option for these migrants.

2. Trafficking in women is a problem of corruption, organized crime and
law enforcement. The discrepancy between the high demands for migrant
labour in informal economic sectors, on the one hand, and the diminishing
legal channels of migration in traditional host countries, on the other hand,
provides the opening for organized crime to exploit the issue. This has
substantially contributed to the alarming growth of the business of women
trafficking. Because trafficking in women brings huge profits but carries
little risk for those who organize it, the rewards are great. This
encourages criminal groups to expand their business. As they offer
security protection, logistical support and liaison with brothel owners in
many countries, the involvement of organized crime networks is as much
a necessity as it is a reality. Their sophistication has posed grave
challenges to legislative and law enforcement authorities, and their violent
nature has rendered their victims extremely vulnerable

3. Trafficking in women must be viewed and addressed as a human rights
violation - a number of serious offences often associated with trafficking
in women such as extortion, debt bondage, indentured servitude, sexual
violence and exploitation through prostitution, violate the basic human
rights of these women. However, while often trafficking in women is
linked to forced prostitution, not all women are trafficked for sexual
exploitation. Many are traded too for arranged marriages, as domestic
and constructions workers or even as beggars which also expose them to
exploitations and abuse.

These offences and the methods used by criminal traffickers to attract and
exploit their victims are what makes trafficking in women a particularly
deplorable kind of migration, and what sets it apart from other kinds of
movement, including that of consensual sex-workers who may not suffer
such abuse. The need to provide adequate protection and assistance to
victims of such abuse is urgent, and the European guidelines adopted at
the EU Ministerial Conference in The Hague in 1997 are a welcome
guide to this.

IOM's RESPONSE TODATE

Distinguished delegates,

As an intergovernmental organization whose global mandate is to
promote orderly migration, IOM has been charged by its members to
address migratory problems -- including irregular migration and trafficking
-- in a comprehensive way through policy-relevant research and forum
activities, and through practical programmes based on these.

As a result of the 4th UN Conference on Women in Beijing, IOM has
identified trafficking in women as a priority area for international attention
and has since then, pursued concrete activities to address the issue in a
more coherent, integrated and consistent way. Based on this
comprehensive approach, IOM has carried out a number of programmes
including research, information campaigns, technical cooperation and
return and reintegration assistance.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on these:

Since 1993, IOM has sought to provide a forum for discussion between
Governments, aimed at fostering understanding and coordinating
measures to combat migrant trafficking, especially women trafficking. In
this framework, IOM has organized several conferences and seminars on
this issue, more recently the Conference of Trafficking in Women to
Countries of the European Union, which the EU held in Vienna in 1996.

Given the very nature of trafficking and its recent resurgence on a large
scale, accurate and up-to-date data are scarce. This has led IOM to
carry out a number of research studies on trafficking of women for sexual
exploitation in Western, Eastern and Central Europe, the Caribbean and
the Asian Region. The two most recent of these studies dealt with
trafficking in Filipino women to Japan, and Cambodian women and
children who were stranded in Thailand.

Similarly, the increasing problem of trafficking has led the European
Union to establish a Joint Action Program - the STOP Programme -
which sets out to combat trafficking in women and children for sexual
exploitation in EU members states. The STOP Committee tasked IOM
to undertake a study on the Analysis of Data and Statistical Resources
Available in the EU Member states on trafficking in humans, particularly
in women and children. The purpose of this study has been to review the
availability of data and adequacy of statistical and other data in the 15 EU
member states and in selected source and transit countries.

IOM has also carried out information dissemination programmes in the
countries of origin in an effort to inform potential migrants of the risks of
irregular migration. Accurate, timely information about migration and
trafficking which is disseminated to would be migrants gives those people
the means to make an informed choice about migrating. Information is
thus an empowerment tool especially for women, diminishing the
possibility of traffickers being able to exploit a lack of knowledge in
potential migrants. IOM has successfully carried out information
programs in a number of migrant sending countries such as Albania and
Romania, and more recently in the Philippines, and now in Ukraine.

IOM also publishes a quarterly newsletter called Trafficking in Migrants
which has regularly focused on issues related to trafficking in women.

Under its Technical Cooperation on Migration Programme, IOM is also
able to provide technical assistance, training and equipment to
government authorities to promote the establishment of effective migration
management systems. IOM's programmes have focused on migration
administration, updating entry and exit procedures, providing document
and fraud detection expertise and other similar activities. It is also relevant
in terms of the creation of migration legislation and policy.

Recognizing the urgency of also dealing with the consequences of
trafficking for sexual exploitation for the victims, IOM has begun to
develop projects for the return and reintegration of migrant women who
have been subjected to abuse, enabling them to return to their home
countries in dignity and safety. In Asia, a first small pilot project has
helped some 100 women to return from Thailand to their home countries
where they are provided with a one year reintegration component that
includes skills training, counselling and some income generating activities.
Building on this experience, IOM is exploring ways to offer similar
assistance to women and children trafficked to Western Europe from
Easter Europe, Latin America and other countries, in collaboration with
Governments and NGOs in both destination and origin countries.

IOM PROJECT IN UKRAINE

Distinguished delegates,

The joint US/EU initiative which brings us together today is a much
welcome and necessary step to raise the awareness of the phenomenon
of trafficking in women in this part of the world, as well as to strengthen
cooperative and coordination efforts among relevant governmental,
intergovernmental and non governmental institutions.

IOM is pleased to have taken part in this initiative, implementing the
information campaign against trafficking in women from Ukraine, in
partnership with the Government of Ukraine. This campaign, one of two
presentations of which will be presented to you this morning has targeted
both the potential victims of trafficking as well as government authorities
with a role in preventing this vicious trade. Preliminary independent
evaluation indicates that the issue has received considerable coverage and
attention. This we find, has already helped create a sense of urgency to
address the plight of a growing number of girls and women in this country
trapped in what can be called a modern form of slavery.

Aside from its information dissemination component, IOM's project
includes activities which are integral to its technical cooperation and
capacity building programs with the governments of the region. In
Ukraine, within the framework of the Capacity Building and Migration
Management Progamme recently endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers,
IOM is working with the government in three key areas, namely,
migration policy and management, legislation and border mechanisms.
Legislative and border initiatives aim both to check the penetration of
traffickers and organized crime networks, and to facilitate the flows of
legal labour migration. Prevention of trafficking in women will be an
integral part of the migration management policy being developed with the
Government of Ukraine. A national coordinating committee on trafficking
in women and children will also be established within the framework of
this programme. In this connection, we are grateful for the support we
have received and the close cooperation we have with the Office of the
national ombudes person and the Ministry of Family and Youth.

CONCLUSION

Distinguished delegates,

Trafficking in migrants, and especially trafficking in women is a modern
migration challenge demanding a strong, comprehensive and harmonised
response from the international community. Governments, international
and non governmental organizations from sending, transit and receiving
countries must all work hand in hand to ensure a more effective response
to this alarming phenomenon. There is also an urgent need to come up
with concrete programs that address prevention before victimization takes
place. We believe that an effective information campaign is a critical first
step.

Let me conclude by assuring all of you once again of IOM's firm and
continuing commitment to the fight against migrant trafficking especially as
it affects women migrants. In the presentation and panel discussions today
and tomorrow, we hope that we can together agree on further
cooperation to help win this fight.

Thank you.

       


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