People's Stories Justice

Human trafficking a $150 billion global industry robbing at least 25 million people of their freedom
by UN News, UNODC, ILO, IOM. OHCHR, agencies
World Day against Trafficking in Persons, by António Guterres - United Nations Secretary General
Human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects every region of the world. Some 72 per cent of detected victims are women and girls, and the percentage of child victims has more than doubled from 2004 to 2016, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Most detected victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation; victims are also trafficked for forced labour, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse.
Traffickers and terrorist groups prey on the vulnerable, from people in poverty to those caught up in war or who face discrimination. Nadia Murad, the first trafficking victim to serve as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, was justly co-awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for galvanizing international action to stop trafficking and sexual violence in conflict.
Armed conflict, displacement, climate change, natural disasters and poverty exacerbate the vulnerabilities and desperation that enable trafficking to flourish. Migrants are being targeted. Thousands of people have died at sea, in deserts and in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and migrant smugglers plying their monstrous, merciless trades.
But everyday indifference to abuse and exploitation around us also takes a heavy toll. Indeed, from construction to food production to consumer goods, countless businesses and enterprises benefit from the misery.
Multilateral action has generated progress, including through the Palermo Convention and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Most countries have the necessary laws in place, and some countries recently recorded their first trafficking convictions. But more needs to be done to bring transnational trafficking networks to justice and, most of all, to ensure that victims are identified and can access the protection and services they need.
The Sustainable Development Goals include clear targets to prevent abuse and exploitation, to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls, and to eradicate forced labour and child labour. On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to stop criminals from ruthlessly exploiting people for profit and to help victims rebuild their lives.
World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, by António Vitorino - International Organization for Migration
The images are unforgettable. Desperate families in sweltering shipping containers and rickety boats. Bodies washed up on shores and beaches following failed voyages. Human beings scarred and broken from years of abuse and exploitation.
Indeed, we are shattered by tales of violence and predation by those willing to exploit the desperate for their own personal gain. Our consciences are shaken with the realization that children are at risk of irreparable damage—even death—simply because their families are trying to improve their futures.
But today—this day when we observe World Day Against Trafficking in Persons—is not a day to reflect on what we feel about migrants who are victims of trafficking.
Rather it is a warning that yet another year has passed in which we can remind ourselves that no matter how much good we can do, we still haven’t done enough. It is time to end the trafficking of men, women and children across the globe.
IOM works tirelessly with partners in government, civil society and the private sector to sweep away bad practices in international labor recruiting. We fight to declare the rights of migrants who cross borders to do those difficult jobs that go unfilled in many prosperous countries, and see that those rights are protected and defended.
But still it is not enough. We need to go after the traffickers, too. And we must hold the governments of IOM’s member states accountable when they fail to protect the traffickers’ victims.
Migration is increasingly seen as an option to escape conflict, instability, food insecurity, natural disasters and climate change, and we know that with large-scale movements of people, the opportunities for criminal elements to rise and then expand to take advantage of those on the move increase.
Nonetheless, this knowledge has not yet resulted in sufficient action to arrest either the drivers of unsafe migration or to address the protection and assistance needs of migrants.
Nowadays, sadly, many governments first go after the NGOs who rescue vulnerable migrants, instead of going after the actual traffickers and smugglers themselves. It is unjust to penalize rescuers—especially on bureaucratic grounds such as not having proper docking permits, or operating without jurisdiction at sea—but it is also ineffective, and wastes the resources of both NGOs and the law enforcement agencies of these governments, themselves.
Responding to these challenges will require significant investment and international cooperation. But we cannot ignore these challenges whilst at the same time hoping that the unsafe migration and the migrant trafficking that follows will disappear of its own accord.
As private citizens, we can speak out against anti-migrant sentiment in both the public and private sphere, sentiments that erode public empathy and which allow traffickers to operate unchallenged and unpunished. We can demand accountability from leaders who tolerate or encourage narratives that dehumanize migrants of all kinds.
As consumers, we can demand goods and services produced without slavery or exploitation. As leaders, we can reinvest in our protection systems. This includes child protection systems, protection systems for victims of domestic violence, and systems aimed at upholding the rights of workers.
We must ensure that these are in place and have sufficient resources to meet the needs of all vulnerable people, including vulnerable migrants.
But we cannot do nothing and yet still hope for change. I understand that many people are migrating not only to flee desperate situations, but also to fulfill their own aspirations. I agree that governments have a legitimate interest in securing their borders and managing migration flows.
I am aware that, oftentimes, governments must reach for a balance between the interests of their citizens and the humanitarian needs of migrants which may not always appear to align. However, we all have an interest in maintaining respect for human dignity and in upholding human rights. Our humanity demands it.
July 2019
UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro urges States to step up efforts to ensure compensation for people who are trafficked.
“It is critically important that States invest in long-term solutions to ensure social inclusion for survivors of human trafficking. This means ensuring that there are robust procedures by States to allow victims to access to justice and remedies including compensation.
Profound changes are needed in States’ approaches to migration and trafficking. Restrictive and xenophobic migration policies and the criminalisation of migrants, as well as of NGOs and individuals providing humanitarian aid, are incompatible with effective action against human trafficking.
Politicians fuelling hatred, building walls, condoning the detention of children and preventing vulnerable migrants from entering their territories are working against the interests of their own countries.
What is needed is safe, orderly and regular migration, which includes making provision for the social integration of migrants. This is crucial also for victims of trafficking, including women suffering discrimination, gender-based violence and exploitation, and children subjected to abuse during their journey, especially when travelling alone. The reality is that restrictive migration policies produce irregularity and vulnerabilities, and foster exploitation and trafficking. Therefore social inclusion is the only and right answer.
Survivors of trafficking need solidarity and a friendly social environment to regain control of their lives, a process that certainly also requires financial resources. The right to an effective remedy is at the core of a victim-centred and human rights-based approach that empowers victims of trafficking and respects fully their human rights. However, to date, compensation remains one of the least implemented provisions of the Palermo Protocol , especially with regard to trafficked children.
Access to remedies is not limited to compensation, but it also encompasses restitution, which implies the reuniting of families and the restoration of employment for victims, as well as guarantees of non-repetition. This includes a strong preventive component, requiring States to address the root causes of trafficking.
Private sector grievance mechanisms are an important tool in this regard and more effort must be made to listen to the voices of workers when cases of trafficking and severe exploitation are identified in business operations and supply chains, in order to find viable alternative solutions for their employment.
I urge States to remove obstacles hampering access to justice for victims by giving residency status to people who have been trafficked, and by ensuring they are not detained or prosecuted for illegal activities they may have been involved in as a result of being trafficked. If they have been convicted, their criminal records must be cleared.
An empowerment process for survivors of trafficking requires a transformative project based on education and training, opening new paths to help them acquire new skills and equipping them for job opportunities. In particular for women, such a process should not be shaped on traditional gender-based activities, but should rather explore innovative solutions in non-traditional areas of education and employment.
The path to regaining physical and psychological integrity, self-esteem and independence for people who have been subjected to serious human rights violations is long. However, I believe that effectively including survivors in society and valuing their potential, skills and expertise can give them an opportunity to rebuild and change their lives, prevent re-trafficking and actively contribute to the dismantling of criminal networks.”
Polaris Project: Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry that robs over 25 million people around the world of their freedom. It isn’t just a human rights abuse – it’s a business. Traffickers are in it for the profit. As with any enterprise, the business plan of a human trafficking venture is not built in a vacuum but rather exists within an ecosystem or matrix, depending on and intersecting with a range of legitimate industries and systems – cultural, governmental, environmental.
Fighting human trafficking requires participation by business and industry partners with resources at a comparable scale to the size of the problem. Participation requires not just passive support but actual, active commitment and effort on the part of businesses.

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Record number of children killed and maimed in armed conflict in 2018
by Virginia Gamba
UN Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict
30 July 2019
2018 Secretary-General Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict
The year 2018 was marked by the highest levels of children killed or maimed in armed conflict since the United Nations started monitoring and reporting this grave violation, shows the latest Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict released today.
Overall, more than 24,000 violations were verified in 2018 in the 20 conflict situations on the Children and Armed Conflict agenda.
“It is immensely sad that children continue to be disproportionately affected by armed conflict, and it is horrific to see them killed and maimed as a result of hostilities. It is imperative that all parties to conflicts prioritize the protection of children. This cannot wait: parties to conflict must take their responsibility to protect children and put in place tangible measures to end and prevent these violations,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.
The recruitment and use of children continued unabated with more than 7,000 children drawn into frontline fighting and support roles globally. Somalia remained the country with the highest number of children recruited and used followed by Nigeria and Syria.
“Nevertheless, the number of children released has consistently increased in the past years, as a result of direct engagement of the UN with parties to conflict bringing hope to thousands of children,” said the Special Representative.
Incidents of sexual violence against boys and girls remained prevalent in all situations (933 cases), but the violation continued to be underreported due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals; the highest figures were verified in Somalia and DRC.
Children continued to be abducted, often to be used in hostilities or for sexual violence. Nearly 2,500 children were verified as abducted in 2018, more than half of them in Somalia.
While the verified attacks on schools and hospitals decreased somewhat globally (1,056), it significantly intensified in some conflict situations such as Afghanistan and in Syria, where the highest number of attacks was verified since the beginning of the conflict.
The military use of schools remained a worrying trend and the deprivation of access to education was alarming in situations like Mali, with 827 schools closed at the end of December 2018, preventing 244,000 children from access to education. A total of 795 incidents of denial of humanitarian access to children were verified, a decrease compared to 2017, the majority in Yemen, Mali and CAR.
The Special Representative commended the work of child protection and humanitarian actors on the ground providing humanitarian assistance to children as well as support to victims of violations in all country situations and called on parties to conflict to allow unimpeded access.
“The tireless efforts of child protection actors in conflict situations is simply remarkable; the international community must continue to support them and ensure that they have the appropriate resources to support the children in need,” SRSG Gamba said.
Release and Reintegration of Children and Prevention of Grave Violations
A total of 13,600 children benefited from release and reintegration support worldwide, an increasing number compared to the previous year (12,000). 2,253 children were separated from armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 833 in Nigeria and 785 in the Central African Republic. As the number of children released is increasing, resources and funding for reintegration support must meet the growing needs, as called for in Security Council resolution 2427 (2018) and highlighted in the report’s recommendation.
Engagement with parties to conflict led to the signature of three new Actions Plans, demonstrating commitment to ending and preventing violations as well as protecting children.
In the Central African Republic : Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC, May 2018) and Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC, June 2019), as well as in Syria: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, June 2019). In Yemen, the Government adopted a Road Map at the end of 2018 to speed-up the implementation of its 2014 Action Plan, while the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations in March 2019 to increase the protection of children during its military operations; a workplan with concrete and time-bound activities is being finalized.
In the DRC, eight armed groups commanders signed unilateral declaration in 2018, committing to end and prevent child recruitment and use and other violations. More armed groups signed similar declaration since.
“A preventive approach including through the development of national, subregional and regional prevention plans, in line with UN Security Council resolution 2427 (2018), is the only way to ultimately limit the number of children victims of grave violations and ensure that protection frameworks are in place, not only in countries affected by conflict but also in their immediate region,” SRSG Gamba said.
South Sudan acceded to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) in September 2018, while Mali endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in February 2018.
Detention of Children in 2018
The detention of thousands of children around the world for their actual or alleged association with armed groups continued to be deeply concerning in 2018. The Special Representative reminded that legal procedures should comply with international juvenile justice standards, children should be primarily treated as victims of recruitment and use and alternatives to detention should be sought whenever possible.
The situation for children deprived of liberty, particularly in Syria and Iraq with the majority below the age of 5, is tragic. The report calls on concerned Member States to work closely with the UN to facilitate the relocation of foreign children and women actually or allegedly affiliated with extremist groups, with the best interest of the child as the primary consideration in decisions affecting their lives.
“Children exposed to the highest levels of violence should not be further ostracized once released from armed groups and armed forces. These children are victims of recruitment and use and their best interest must be given primary consideration”.
* The casualty figures cited are only officially designated and state verified numbers and it is the view of the Universal Rights Network that they are highly conservative estimations. Further in conflict situations the health determinants of children succumbing to injuries, ill health, disease, malnutrition and the like appear to be wholely absent and again avail a most significant underestimation of considerable magnitude on the life expectancy of children caught up conflict situations.
May 2019
The urgent need to protect children living through conflict - Save the Children, agencies
Save the Children launches Charter setting out key points to ensure that children are protected during conflicts. The charter forms the basis for a safer future for the 420 million children currently living in conflict-affected areas.
Children in conflict face severe and multiple violations of their rights, like killing and maiming, sexual violence, recruitment and obstruction of humanitarian aid.
The Charter, presented at the launch of the Stop the War on Children campaign, outlines what states and armed groups can and must do to ensure children are protected from war and supported in their recovery.
Worldwide, around one in five children live in conflict affected areas, where they run the risk of being killed or maimed, abducted, or see their schools and hospitals bombed. Violations against children have nearly tripled since 2010.
In its report on paedeiatric blast injuries, Save the Children revealed that explosive weapons account for 72% of child deaths and injuries across the five world’s deadliest conflict zones – in 2017.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said:
“It is absolutely critical to have this discussion now, as millions of children suffer in conflict every day. The rights and well-being of children – including in conflict – should be a priority for all of us, and we need stronger and more consistent systems to hold to account the perpetrators of crimes.
The ten points launched today are an important reminder to all governments of the commitments they have made to children''s rights. They reinforce the work being undertaken by the UN and other actors to protect children in conflict situations."
The Stop the War on Children Charter is based on three pillars: providing safety by making sure that parties to any conflict adhere to international law and standards, pursuing justice by holding perpetrators to account and taking measures on the ground to ensure children receive all practical help they need.
Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said: “1 in 5 children are now growing up in areas affected by conflict, and those children are seeing and experiencing things that no child ever should. Homes, schools and playgrounds have become battlefields, and children end up trapped on the frontline. Explosive weapons kill and maim children indiscriminately, and aid is used as a weapon of war.
The world seems to be accepting an outrageous new normal of the conventions of war being treated with flagrant disregard, and children are paying the price. It is shocking that in the 21st Century we are retreating on a principle that is so simple – children should be protected.
“Today we are bringing together leaders in the Peace Palace in The Hague to try to end this culture of impunity. The failure to protect children in conflict not only robs children, but also their countries—and the entire world—of a better future. All governments and warring parties can make a difference by backing up the charter to protect children in conflict.”
Joint Statement, The Hague, Peace Palace:
Some 420 million children are living in conflict-affected areas across the globe. Almost one in five children run a daily risk of being killed or maimed by armed violence, they live in the fear of being abducted, sexually abused or recruited by armed forces, they regularly witness their schools or hospitals being bombed or go hungry and uncared for because humanitarian aid is denied to them.
What is being done to children in conflicts all over the world, is unacceptable.
We call on every government and every armed group to affirm and adhere to international laws, human rights provisions, rules and standards designed to protect children. Individually and collectively, we are committed to working towards a world in which:
All children are protected against killing and maiming. Schools and health centres are treated as zones of peace and protection. Every child is protected from rape and sexual violence. No child is recruited into armed forces or groups. All children in conflict are safe from abduction, detention and displacement. No child is denied access to humanitarian aid in conflict.
Violations of the rights of children in conflict are rigorously monitored, reported and acted on. Those committing, overseeing and ordering violations against children in conflict are brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.
Every child harmed or affected by conflict receives practical help and support to cope, recover and rebuild their lives. All children affected by conflict, including refugees and those internally displaced, have access to a good-quality education.
* Speech by Michelle Bachelet:

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