Subject: News: INTL: Migrants at the mercy of human traffickers
Date: Tue Feb 02 1999 - 13:34:38 EST
November 7, 1998
Migrants at the mercy of human traffickers
Global economic woes compound situation
The current economic crisis coupled with the suppression of
illegal workers have aggravated the vulnerable situation of
migrants, particularly women, caught in the human
trafficking racket in the Asia-Pacific region, a report
A paper prepared by the International Organisation for
Migration, presented at the Regional Conference on
Trafficking in Women organised by the United Nations
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific,
said the problem of trafficking in women will worsen due to
changes in the economic and social environment in the
In his presentation, IOM representative Anders Knudsen said
the current crisis has forced the lives of illegal migrants
In a response to economic problems, many of the receiving
countries in the region have imposed stricter measures
against illegally employed foreign workers.
The possibilities of obtaining work permits have also
However, it was noted that considerable demand for foreign
labour still exists.
Due to the economic downturn, many private companies have
been forced to cut costs to survive.
One option being applied is a reduction in salaries by
employing cheap foreign and irregular labour.
With big supply and strong demand in the labour market,
measures aimed at limiting migration failed to reduce the
presence of foreign workers.
Mr Knudsen said illegal cross-border migration has created
a market for services, such as the provision of forged
travel documents, transportation, guided border crossings,
accommodation and job brokering.
The smuggling of illegal aliens is said to be a very
profitable business, he said.
"Before the downturn many could migrate freely and by their
own means, but now with stricter enforcement many have
turned to services offered by traffickers to reach their
goal," he said.
A larger number of migrants are now depending on the
protection of employers in order not to be arrested and
Such dependence on employers often leaves migrants at risk
of abuse, exploitation, humiliation, and violence from
employers and corrupt police.
However, although migrants, particularly women, are often
abused, they rarely enjoy any legal rights in the receiving
countries. If they complain to the police, they are simply
arrested, charged with illegal entry and deported.
Trafficking is part of a migration problem, and trafficking
in women is particularly disturbing as female migrants are
more vulnerable than male.
Mr Knudsen said the problems facing female migrants have
been combined by several factors, including violation of
basic human rights in the form of extortion, debt bondage,
and sexual exploitation.
Illegal migrants also do not have access to public health
care and their children do not have access to public
To solve the problem, he said that governments,
inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations must
work together to address the root causes such as poverty,
lack of opportunities, scarce resources, low status of
women in society and political and economic instability
which drive irregular migration as a whole.
The IOM has focussed on two stages in the trafficking
process. The first is through prevention before
victimisation occurs, by providing potential victims with
information about trafficking so that they will be in a
better position to make an informed decision.
The second concentrates on direct assistance and support to
the victims of trafficking.
The IOM also emphasised a new range of activities for
international organisations, governments and NGOs such as
adoption of policies and legislation to penalise
traffickers, established systems to distinguish between
"normal" irregular migrants and victims of trafficking and
legal and medical assistance for victims of trafficking.
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