Source : Corbis
From ABC News:
A new report by an international alliance of non-government organizations suggests Australia's anti-people trafficking measures should be reviewed. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women argues Australia puts too much emphasis on law enforcement instead of protecting victims. In a recent report, the organization also raised concerns that temporary skilled work visas under the 457 visa scheme could expose migrant workers to exploitation.
Human rights lawyer Eleanor Taylor-Nicholson from the Alliance says there is a focus on the sex trade in Australia at the expense of other workers. "This is not unique to Australia, most of the emphasis has been only on the sex industry, it hasn't been on other industries at all," she said. "The 457 visa, which is a way for people to come into Australia and work and provide really great services, is also being used by some employers to exploit people and in some sectors people are suffering such severe exploitation that you might consider it to be trafficking. Their assistance services are linked to their visa status, so if they decide they don't want to help the police or if the police don't find their case interesting or the person doesn't have enough relevant information, then the police can just revoke the visa at any time and the person is sent back to their country."
Read the full article here
Source : Corbis
To be fair, however, sub par efforts of addressing human trafficking are apparent in countries across the globe as recently observed by the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime.
From ABC News:
The United Nations has condemned as uncoordinated and inefficient global efforts to counter human trafficking, saying the crime implicates nearly every country in the world. "Virtually no country in the world is unaffected by the crime of human trafficking for sexual exploitation or forced labor," the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its first study on the scale of the phenomenon.
"Efforts to counter trafficking have so far been uncoordinated and inefficient. "The lack of systematic reporting by authorities is a real problem. Governments need to try harder."
UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa says it is "extremely difficult" to establish how many victims there are worldwide but adds that "the fact that this form of slavery still exists in the 21st Century shames us all".
Read the full article here
Source : Corbis
In a better world, modern day slavery would have been eradicated long ago. In a better world, modern day slavery would have been something relegated to the history books that is studied as an example of where we went wrong.
In today's world, however, human trafficking is a thriving business generating up to $10 billion dollars a year according to the UNODC. Whereas slavery was historically legal and in the open, and thus easy to track, it is now illegal and clandestine in nature. Whereas slaves used to be expensive and generated steady but modest profits, slaves today are more abundant than ever, and thus cheaper than ever, earning huge profits for their owners. Gone are the days of long term master and slave relationships. Slaves today are generally exploited for much shorter periods of time. Instead of staying with a slave owner for a lifetime or even generations, slaves today can be exploited for as short as a few months at a time. We live in a globalized world and modern day slavery reflects this reality in the form of a never-ending flow of cheap slaves from China to Colombia.
The unreliable support provided by Australia to trafficking victims is unacceptable and counter -productive to combating modern day slavery. True, government services are offered to victims, but if they don't have relevant information on a case or are unwilling to share it with authorities, they can be deported. This displays an insensitivity on the part of the Australian government to recognize the distress and danger that the trafficking victims are in. Often times traffickers know where the families of victims live and use that as a threat to deter victims from testifying in court. This alone is a powerful motivator to withhold information from authorities. While this is a problem when prosecuting traffickers in court, it is not solved by deportation. Deportation implies that victims are only entitled to services if they are of value to a legal case. While this is important, it should not preclude uncooperative victims from having access to services.
Signs for strip clubs in Kabuki-cho, Tokyo's red light district. Japan is a major destination country for victims of sex trafficking. Many of them end up working in club like these. Source: Corbis
But trafficking is not only Australia's problem. The point is not to single out Australia, but rather to emphasize the necessity for all countries to develop legislation that provides trafficking victims with the services and support that they need in tandem with increasing the conviction rate. Even beyond legislation, the point is for countries to first acknowledge that the problem is occurring within their borders, which according to the above UNODC report is not yet being done. Many times I have spoken of the need for a holistic strategy against trafficking that involves collaboration between the public, private and civil sectors of society. This idea must be extrapolated to include cooperation between countries. Traffickers are making huge profits. They are motivated by money and will continue to exploit any loopholes that exist, whether in the form of incomplete legislation, inefficient cooperation between countries or lack of public awareness of trafficking. This is why it becomes crucial for countries to take this problem seriously. Window dressing may look nice in the form of anti-trafficking laws and international initiatives, but if laws are incomplete or not utilized and if cooperation remains written on paper but not translated into action then our efforts become little more than self-delusions, a false pat on the back that says "hey, we are giving it our best shot."
Trafficking victims are regular people. They seek jobs and financial stability. After they are trafficked, the need to earn money is even stronger because of the time lost during exploitation. They do not all want to become advocates for migrant rights. They do not all want to go to court. In the Philippines most of them do not pursue legal cases. One simple explanation is because the majority of victims do not have the luxury of time to pursue a lengthy legal battle. In the Philippines, a trafficking case takes an average of 2-5 years to close. The victims have families to support. They need jobs. They have lives to live. Simply because a trafficking victim does not have relevant information on a case or is currently unwilling to share it should not exclude him/her from access to services. The previous two articles make it clear that although trafficking is emerging as a global issue, there is still a long way to go and much work to be done until we can affirm that our best efforts have been given to end modern day slavery. Until then, look for traffickers to capitalize on our incomplete attempts and inefficiencies.