Meeting of international experts, in order to elaborate a strategy to fight trafficking in human beings

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The Efus, which published a report in 2002 entitled “trafficking in human beings, international knowledge and local practices”, took part in a meeting aimed at elaborating a strategic framework for the prevention of trafficking in human beings. The meeting took place in Montreal (Canada) last 21st and 22nd of March, on the initiative of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy and the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime.

Coming from all around the world, around twenty experts attended the meeting (Germany, South-Africa, Canada, United-States, Finland, Jamaica, Sweden, Switzerland were amongst the countries represented that day) and the reunion followed two previous seminars with local actors, held in British Columbia and Manitoba. This approach was aiming at defining the elements of a global prevention policy, which will go beyond the current strategies “only” supporting the victims. Among the speakers were Nicole Barrett and Margret Shaw who presented their work. Both of them were given, by the Canadian government, the responsibility of formulating and arguing recommendations for a national prevention policy on trafficking in human beings.

The international guidelines on human rights, trafficking in persons and prevention of crime, are the legal framework of a global prevention strategy.

A first assessment has to be made: no one can pretend resolving the practical issues, which are even sometimes abstract ones, case by case or more globally within a city, issues that all of us are facing in the field of prevention of trafficking in human beings.

Currently, the stakeholders observing and acting on a daily basis on the most visible part of the iceberg (prostitution, violence, forced work or exploitation) develop most of the time protection systems, organize prosecutions and sometimes even a partnership based on these goals (and this is the case in the countries represented during this seminar).

Presently, the one important lack in national and local strategies is the most problematic one, out of the four “P”’s: prevention. It emerges from the discussions that it is necessary to agree on the sense of the words and the problems to prevent. In a background of significant increase of migration inflows and of the number of its victims, the smuggling of illegal immigrants is a major phenomenon, also increasing constantly. This, however, constitutes an offence against the States, even if these chaotic journeys lead to trafficking in human beings, which is in itself an offence against the persons.

The spotting throughout the world of the number of native women and children who are victims of the trafficking in people proves that vulnerability, discrimination and exclusion are deeply linked. No matter the region taken into account, a double insecurity, familial and environmental (the double affiliation to a family and a community aside and/ or discriminated) often leads to meeting a third party, most of the time “trustworthy”, who initiates this long lasting exploitation route.

We agreed on this point: trafficking in human beings is a process requiring a succession of stakeholders able to communicate, buy and sell, use new technologies and go through other regions, even cross borders.

The will to prevent would imply that we take these facts into account and thus adopt a type of parallel strategies: spot the risky situations, work in partnership, have resources at our disposal, research information, and work on local, national and international level.

A few examples illustrate the challenges we are facing.

Imagine long-lasting upstream systems, which go beyond large events

Everyone remembers the latest football world cup in South Africa, or the Olympic Games in Athens. These are the type of events generating illegal work, delinquency, sex work and to which women, children and young people are incited to “participate”, by means of promises that are never kept.

Let’s hope that the preparation of the next Olympic Games in London in 2012 will be anticipated, particularly getting inspiration from what was done in South Africa. But above all, let’s hope the OG will allow the implementation or update of a long lasting prevention policy in the fight against trafficking in human beings.

Analyse the pernicious effects of repressive measures

For example with prostitution, repression can lead to its transfer or even to hiding reality. A few network are caught, however, it does not mean that the number of victims drops even if they become less visible.

Acknowledge precisely forced labour, domestic servitude and work exploitation for what they are, where they exist, even in our developed countries.

Amongst others, these three challenges lead us to see that Europe has a lot to do concerning this barbarity that is seducing or forcing and later transporting and exploiting the weaker.

In Canada, there are in the Manitoba province, native populations and parts of them are victims of these violations of human dignity. Children and women were taken in charge in the province, or when they were wandering on the continent, and these “survivors” as they are called, participate in campaigns of information and raising awareness. In a Europe with 27 members we acknowledge free access to the European citizenship for all the citizens of the member states. But let’s not be in denial. How many “natives” are unable to satisfy their basic needs (feed and be safe), unable to overcome on their own or within their community the cultural differences that maintain them away from everything and everyone? or are forced or seduced by a third party?

A European prevention policy would consist in guaranteeing everyone’s rights. If we do not do it ourselves, others will do it for us and will undo what we have built up step by step: solidarity, democracy, safety.

This task has to be done by local, national and international authorities because the different sorts of crime are never totally separated, and one type does not guarantee the others will not exist, on the contrary.

The meeting of the experts in Montreal ended with the adoption of well known principles for the Efus:

–         Have a legal framework;

–         Support local grades in the drafting of prevention strategies and structure the different political levels;

–         Support a regional approach and a transnational cooperation.