News: INTL: Migrants at the mercy of human traffickers

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Subject: News: INTL: Migrants at the mercy of human traffickers
Melanie.Orhant@igc.org
Date: Tue Feb 02 1999 - 13:34:38 EST


                                        November 7, 1998
                       LABOUR

 Migrants at the mercy of human traffickers

 Global economic woes compound situation

 Anjira Assavanonda

 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
 claimed.

 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
 region.

 In his presentation, IOM representative Anders Knudsen said
 the current crisis has forced the lives of illegal migrants
 further underground.

 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
 decreased drastically.

 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
 deported.

 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
 education.

 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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