Sunday, March 02, 2008

UN Vienna Forum Part 4: Communities in Crisis

For the second session of the second day of the conference, I attended a forum on Communities in Crisis and how natural and man-made disasters create situations where victims become especially vulnerable to problems like trafficking. Among the panelists were Maria Ulfa Anshor of the organization Fatayat in Indonesia; Monica Peruffa of the Counter-trafficking Unit of the International Organization for Migration in Columbia (currently working out of the IOM in Tanzania); Kasirye Rogers of the Uganda Youth Development Organization; and Karolina Lindholm Senior Liaison Officer (Human Rights) of UNHCR.

Ms. Anshor was the first to speak. Her presentation was on the work of her organization with the people displaced by the 2004 tsunami. Her organization, Fatayat, is a faith-based Islamic organization in Indonesia, which works towards combating human trafficking. Ms. Anshor stated that the basis for her organization's work is that the text of Quran prohibits human trafficking because it goes against human rights and anti-slavery texts. Fatayat has advocated and was able to get a fatwa issued against trafficking by NU clerics stating that the position of Islamic law on trafficking is that such action is haram (forbidden) and that the prevention of human trafficking and protection of victims by religious figures and community is an obligation.

As far as the post-tsunami situation, she explained that abuse of women and children after 2005 tsunami was rampant, and the number of orphans rapidly increased. The
risk of trafficking was high among internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled the devastation. Fatayat ran anti-trafficking programs among IDP camps in Aceh, an area notorious for conflict because of separatist groups, which was devastated by the tsunami. There were many reports of children taken during the chaos to be used for illegal adoption and trafficking under the guise of humanitarian work.

In collaboration with organizations like the IOM, Fatayat opened support centers for IDPs with trained counselors as well as a trafficking alert program that allowed community members, teachers, clerics, youths, local officials, and police officers to coordinate and report cases of trafficking or immediate potential trafficking.

Fatayat's overall recommendations to fight trafficking in Indonesia include the creation of alternative job opportunities to deal with high unemployment and underemployment rates, increase knowledge and awareness, and the creation of a regional and international anti-trafficking advocacy network.The next to speak was Monica Peruffo of the IOM on her research on the identification of vulnerable communities, especially those receiving high numbers of IDPs. The study that was conducted was in Medellin, which is the home of a high number of people displaced by conflict in Colombia with the purpose of finding out whether these populations were vulnerable to trafficking. The answer was yes, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation.

Work with the National University produced the following factors on why this was the case:

• IDPs had a high level of willingness to accept a certain level of risk in search for better life

• Their own life plans were focused only in the short term

• There existed a great deal of pressure from family to solve their economic problems

Results from study of IDP community in Medellin include:
• For children between the ages of 12 and 17, the major factor of vulnerability is perceived worthlessness. They believe that by joining the armed forces or rebels, they feel useful.

• For women 18 to 25 years in age, in addition to risks in such a dangerous environment, the patriarchal system leaves them vulnerable and the community tends to ignore their rights and needs.

From this, the IOM is working with NGOs and the government to provide program of legal framework for IDPs and trafficking victims. Their recommendations include:

• Victims should participate in legislative/response building process

• Information for basic rights and services should be out/available

• Awareness should be increased, especially in communities involved in long-term conflict as members tend to become unaware of any other way of life.Mr. Rogers' presentation focused on the vulnerability of families and children victimized by the conflict in Uganda. His details and experiences painted a very grim picture for the audience.

Crisis in war zone means:

• The scattering of families and a weakened support system for children,

• The destruction of family substance economy

• In Uganda, 2 million people have been displaced by conflict

• HIV/AIDS also has this scattering effect that makes people, especially children, vulnerable to trafficking,

• During the conflict, there has been mass abduction of children, mostly for the purpose of recruiting child soldiers. These abductions have been shown to be very well-organized.

• Until 2005, there were 112 longstanding IDP camps in Acholi. Afterwards, the government initiated a decongestion policy which resulted in the formation of 360 new sites

• 90% of the people in the Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader districts have been displaced

• 12,000 people have been killed in the violence

Mr. Rogers also spoke of the phenomenon of Night Commuter Children. Forty thousand Night Commuters travel at night from the camps to towns looking for work because there is a perception that there is a higher level of safety in town than there is in the camps. Once these Night Commuters are in town, the women and children are exploited and exposed to serious problems like trafficking and HIV/AIDS.

U.S. State Department defines child soldiering as, "A unique and severe manifestation of trafficking in persons that involves the recruitment of children through force, fraud, or coercion to be exploited for their labor or to be abused as sex slaves in conflict areas." The figures Mr. Rogers presented on child soldiers are also devastating. In Uganda, 25,000 children have been abducted to become child soldiers. Aside from the abuse and trauma they face, the workload they are forced to do is extremely difficult and dangerous: heavy lifting, transporting weapons. Somewhere between 20-30% of these child soldiers are girls.Usuall, they are forced into marriage or given as rewards to soldiers. These child soldiers suffer from their abduction, mutilation, rape, death, torture, and sexual slavery. Aside from the beatings they face themselves, some child soldiers are forced to beat each other or civilians.

Mr. Rogers has been involved with the rehabilitation of child soldiers, and he identified some of the challenges of rehabilitating child soldiers:

• They suffer from severe psychological and emotional problems

• Some have an unwillingness to stick with rehabilitation, and some want to return to fighting. (For those of you who haven't read
Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, this book can shed a lot of light on this issue.)

His only recommendations seemed were very basic, as if other steps hinged on them. He called for more good governance and capacity building in order to combat this problem. Finally, Karolina Lindholm of the UNHCR presented on the organization's involvement in protecting populations made vulnerable by conflict. The UNHCR's established mandate calls for the protection of refugees, IDPs, and stateless persons from falling victim to trafficking.

Factors that increase vulnerability of these populations to trafficking:

• Forced displacement

• Destroyed family and support structures

• Insecure environment in countries of asylum

• Lengthy asylum procedures, uncertain status, and lack of durable residence rights

• Lack of socio-economic support systems and lack of rights essential for attainment of self-reliance

• Insufficient humanitarian aid to compensate for lack of livelihoods

• Lack of educational opportunities

• Discrimination

• Gender inequality

• Temptation to pursue irregular onward movement

She also explained that unaccompanied and separated children, survivors of trafficking, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence or abuse, and single heads of households are especially vulnerable to trafficking or being re-trafficked.

Something I was not aware of and that makes these criminals all the more dispicable is that traffickers also use asylum procedures as a way of temporarily legalising the stay of victims while they prepare for their onward journey.

For returnees, the following factors make them vulnerable to trafficking:

• Return to a chaotic post-conflict environment,

• Lack of adequate/safe housing and property

• Lack of livelihood opportunities

• Lack of equal participation in peace and reconciliation processes (women are especially left out)

For Stateless persons, the vulnerability factors include:

• A lack of citizenship, which means a lack of a secure residency status and a lack of identification papers including birth registration and documents

• Lack of access to rights and services

The UNHCR works to reduce as many vulnerability factors among its target populations as possible by helping to obtain proper documentation; tracing and reuniting families; appointing guardians and advisers to unsupervised children; providing or finding alternative accommodation for unaccompanied children; conducting Best Interest Assessments and Best Interest Determination for children; and finally creating Standard Operating Procedures for the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

No comments:

Post a Comment