Children, Human Rights, Immigration and Refugees, Violence

Human Trafficking Cases Hit a 13-Year Record High

Jan 30 2019

Human Wrong Watch – Source: Agencies of the United Nations

The latest Global Report On Trafficking In Persons, released on Tuesday [29 January 2019] by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at UN headquarters in New York, shows a record-high number of cases detected during 2016, but also the largest recorded conviction rate of traffickers.

“The report was undertaken for a simple reason: if we want to succeed in confronting human trafficking in all its manifestations, we must better understand its scope and structure,” said Yury Fedotov, UNODC’s Executive Director as he presented the report in New York. “We need to appreciate where human trafficking is happening, who are its victims and who is perpetrating this crime.”

According to the latest figures compiled by UNODC, the record conviction and detection rates could either be a sign that countries have strengthened their capacity to identify victims – such as through specific legislation, better coordination among law enforcement entities, and improved victim protection services – or, that the number of actual instances of trafficking has increased.

While in 2003 fewer than 20,000 cases had been recorded, the number of cases recorded in 2016 had jumped to over 25,000.

Despite improvements in data collection, impunity prevails

Over the last decade, the capacity of national authorities to track and assess patterns and flows of human trafficking has improved in many parts of the world. UNODC’s report notes that this is also due to a specific focus of the international community in developing standards for data collection.

In 2009, only 26 countries had an institution which systematically collected and disseminated data on trafficking cases, while by 2018, the number had risen to 65.

However, many countries in Africa and Asia continue to have low conviction rates, and at the same time detect fewer victims which, UNODC stresses, “does not necessarily mean that traffickers are not active”.

In fact, the report shows that victims trafficked from areas of the world with low detection/conviction rates are found in large numbers in other areas of the world, suggesting that a high degree of impunity prevails in these low-reporting regions.

“This impunity could serve as an incentive to carry out more trafficking,” the report warns.

Women and girls remain a major target

“Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls,” wrote Executive Director Fedotov, in the report’s preface. ‘The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 per cent of those trafficked for forced labour are female.”

The report notes “considerable regional differences in the sex and age profiles of detected trafficking victims.” In West Africa, most of the detected victims are children, both boys and girls, while in South Asia, victims are equally reported to be men, women and children. In Central Asia, a larger share of adult men is detected compared to other regions, while in Central America and the Caribbean, more girls are recorded.

Sexual exploitation, the top form of trafficking

Most of the victims detected globally are trafficked for sexual exploitation, especially in the Americas, Europe, and East Asia and the Pacific. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, trafficking for forced labour is the most commonly detected form. In Central Asia and South Asia, trafficking for forced labour and sexual exploitation are equally prevalent,

Other forms of human trafficking include: girls forced into marriage, more commonly detected in South-East Asia; children for illegal adoption, more common in Central and South American countries; forced criminality, mainly reported in Western and Southern Europe; and organ removal, primarily detected in North Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe.

“Victims can be in restaurants, fisheries, brothels, farms, homes, and even organ trafficking and illegal adoption,” said Rani Hong, who survived child trafficking herself as she was taken from her family in India at age 7, submitted to intimidation, physical abuse and slavery, until she was sold for illegal adoption in Canada and later the United States.

“I was told by my witnesses that when I came into the United States, I was not able to walk because I had been locked in a small cage. This is what this industry is doing, and this is what happened to me.”

Many other forms, such as trafficking for exploitation in begging, or for the production of pornographic material, are reported in different parts of the world.

Armed conflict and displacement, a key driver of human trafficking

The report shows that armed conflicts can increase vulnerability to trafficking in different ways as areas with weak rule of law and lack of resources to respond to crime, provide traffickers with a fertile terrain to carry out their operations, preying on those who are desparately in need.

Armed groups and other criminals may take the opportunity to traffic victims – including children – for sexual exploitation, sexual slavery, forced marriage, armed combat and various forms of forced labour. This is the case for example in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, South-East Asia and elsewhere.

In some refugee camps in the Middle East, also, it has been documented that girls and young women have been ‘married off’ without their consent and subjected to sexual exploitation in neighbouring countries.

In addition, recruitment of children for use as armed combatants is widely documented. UNODC’s report notes that within conflict zones, armed groups can use trafficking as a strategy to assert territorial dominance, spread fear among civilians in the territories where they operate to keep the local population under control. They may also use women and girls as ‘sex slaves’ or force them into marriages to appeal to new potential male recruits.

The study shows that in all the conflicts examined for the report, forcibly displaced populations (refugees and internally displaced families) have been specifically targeted: from settlements of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, to Afghans and Rohingya fleeing conflict and persecution.

Notably, the risk faced by migrants and refugees travelling through conflict areas, such as Libya or parts of sub-Saharan Africa, is also well documented: in Libya, for example, militias control some detention centres for migrants and refugees and are coercing detained migrants and asylum seekers for different exploitative purposes.

“While we are far from ending impunity, we have made headway in the 15 years since the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons entered into force,” said UNODC’s chief Mr. Fedotov, as he noted that “nearly every country now has legislation in place criminalizing human trafficking”.

“The international community needs to accelerate progress to build capacities and cooperation, to stop human trafficking in conflict situations and in all our societies where this terrible crime continues to operate in the shadows,” he stated in the report’s preface. (SOURCE: UN News).

Six People Died Each Day Attempting to Cross Mediterranean in 2018

 Source: Agencies of the United Nations

30 January 2019 (UNHCR)* — Refugees and migrants attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea lost their lives at an alarming rate in 2018, as cuts in search and rescue operations reinforced its position as the world’s deadliest sea crossing. The latest ‘Desperate Journeys’ report, released today by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, says six lives were lost on average every day.

An estimated 2,275 died or went missing crossing the Mediterranean in 2018, despite a major drop in the number of arrivals reaching European shores. In total, 139,300 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, the lowest number in five years.

“Saving lives at sea is not a choice, nor a matter of politics, but an age-old obligation,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “We can put an end to these tragedies by having the courage and vision to look beyond the next boat, and adopt a long-term approach based on regional cooperation, that places human life and dignity at its core.”

The report describes how shifts in policy by some European States saw numerous incidents where large numbers of people were left stranded at sea for days on end, waiting for permission to dock. NGO boats and their crews faced growing restrictions on their search and rescue operations.

On routes from Libya to Europe, one person died at sea for every 14 who arrived in Europe – a sharp rise on 2017 levels. Thousands more were returned to Libya where they faced appalling conditions inside detention centres.

For many, setting foot in Europe was the final stop of a nightmarish journey on which they had faced torture, rape and sexual assault, and the threat of being kidnapped and held for ransom. States must take urgent action to dismantle smuggling networks and bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

However, new seeds of hope did emerge in some places. Despite political deadlock on progressing with a regional approach to sea rescue and disembarkation, as called for by UNHCR and IOM last June, several States committed to relocating people rescued on the central Mediterranean – a potential foundation for a predictable and lasting solution. Thousands of resettlement places were also pledged by States for evacuating refugees out of Libya.

The report also reveals significant changes in the routes being used by refugees and migrants. For the first time in recent years, Spain became the primary entry point to Europe as around 6,800 arrived by land (through the enclaves in Ceuta and Melilla) and a further 58,600 people successfully crossed over the perilous Western Mediterranean.

As a result, the death toll for the western Mediterranean nearly quadrupled from 202 in 2017 to 777. Some 23,400 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy in 2018, a fivefold decrease compared to the previous year.

Greece received a similar number of sea arrivals, some 32,500 compared to 30,000 in 2017, but saw a near threefold increase in the number of people arriving via its land border with Turkey.

Elsewhere in Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded some 24,000 arrivals as refugees and migrants transited through the Western Balkans. Cyprus received several boats carrying Syrian refugees from Lebanon while the UK witnessed small numbers crossing from France towards the end of the year.

For more information on this topic, please check this page.

*SOURCE: UNHCR. Go to ORIGINAL.

“Alarming and Expanding” Problems Affecting Palestine Refugees “Risk Further Destabilizing the Middle East” 

Source: Agencies of the United Nations

“Alarming and expanding” problems affecting Palestine refugees, risk further destabilizing the Middle East, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNWRA, said on Tuesday [29 January 2019].

In an appeal for $1.2 billion to fund vital services and life-saving aid for 5.4 million Palestine refugees in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl explained that people’s basic needs had worsened considerably since the turn of the century.

“We provide food assistance to a million people in Gaza, which is half of the Gaza population. UNRWA provides that food assistance every three months,” he explained.

“That is a figure the world should be shocked about, because in the year 2000, we used to provide food assistance to 80,000. So, we’ve moved from 80,000 people on our food assistance list to one million. Why? Because the whole dynamic of the conflict and the blockade has wiped out entire sectors of the Gaza economy.”

Speaking in Geneva, Mr Krähenbühl praised the generosity of Member States in supporting the agency’s work, following the withdrawal of funding by the United States, historically its biggest donor by far for decades.

UN rights office ‘deeply concerned’ over shooting death in West Bank

Meanwhile, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) on Tuesday expressed deep concern over the “protracted and extremely violent attack” in the West Bank village of Al Mughayyir last Saturday, during which a 38-year-old Palestinian father of four, Hamdi Taleb Na’asan, was shot in the back and killed.

“The monitoring by our staff in the West Bank suggests that the killing took place after a group of up to 30 Israelis – some of them armed – from the nearby Israeli outpost of Adei Ad, first of all attacked Palestinian farmers in their fields”, said spokesperson Rupert Colville, briefing reporters at the UN in Geneva.

He said that settlers “then descended on the village itself where they used live ammunition to shoot at the villagers and their houses.”

He added that six villagers had been shot “with live ammunition, leaving three of them in a serious condition. It is unclear whether any settlers were also injured, and if so how many.”

He said that although Israeli security forces were stationed near the village and “were immediately alerted to the attack, witnesses informed our staff – who visited the village yesterday – that it took some two hours before they intervened.”

When they did step in, added Mr. Colville, “the main focus of their action appears to have been to disperse the Palestinian villagers using teargas. Three more Palestinians were injured by live ammunition after the intervention of the security forces.”

He said there had been a rise in settler-instigated violence in the West Bank, “which has reached its highest levels since 2015.”

According to the UN humanitarian affairs office OCHA, the average number of violent incidents instigated by settlers per month increased by 57% in 2018 compared to 2017, and by 175% in comparison to 2016.

The Israeli security forces have opened an initial probe into the killing of Mr. Na’asan, and we welcome this”, said Mr. Colville. “We urge the authorities to ensure there is a full investigation into his killing and the injuries caused to others, and that it is independent, transparent and effective.” (SOURCE: UN News).

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