Today is the World Day against Trafficking in Persons and the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message calls on all countries to come together to overcome this transnational threat by supporting and protecting victims while pursuing and prosecuting the criminals.
Urging the international community to resolve to act as one in the name of justice and dignity for all, the UN chief says that around the world, criminals are selling people for profit. Vulnerable women and girls form the majority of human trafficking victims, including those driven into degrading sexual exploitation.
Trafficked people are often tricked into servitude with the false promise of a well-paid job. Migrants crossing deadly seas and burning deserts to escape conflict, poverty and persecution are also at the risk of being trafficked. Individuals can find themselves alone in a foreign land where they have been stripped of their passports, forced into debt and exploited for labour. Children and young people can find their lives stolen, their education blocked and their dreams dashed. It is an assault on their most basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, the UN chief says in a powerful attack on what is one of the most horrible crimes against humanity.
According to Mr. Ban, criminal trafficking networks thrive in countries where the rule of law is weak and international cooperation is difficult. Therefore he calls on all countries to fight money laundering and sign and ratify the UN Conventions against corruption and transnational organized crime, including the human trafficking protocol. He also appeals that meaningful assistance be provided to those in need. This includes protection, access to justice and remedies. The UN affiliated International Labour Organization (ILO)estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally but others put the figure at a shocking and shameful 30 to 40 million. Every country is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. Slavery, in both its ancient and modern forms, is not only shameful, it is as the abolitionist John Wesley said “the execrable sum of all villanies,” and has no place in our world.
On December 2, 2014, the campaign to end human trafficking took a big step forward. Religious leaders from across the globe assembled at the Vatican on that day to sign a Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery. This is the first time that leaders of the Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu and Jewish faiths have come together to jointly declare their intention to end modern-day slavery. Also in attendance were government officials from all countries. The goal is to end modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020. “We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative,” the religious leaders declared.
What is Sri Lanka’s role or situation in this crime against humanity? Sri Lanka is primarily a source and, to a much lesser extent, a destination for men and women trafficking for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Sri Lankan men and women migrate willingly to Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Singapore to work as construction workers, domestic servants, or garment factory workers. Some of these workers find themselves in situations of involuntary servitude when faced with restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and debt bondage that is, in some instances, facilitated by large pre-departure fees imposed by labour recruitment agencies and their unlicensed sub-agents. They are known as the foreign job mafias and on a day such as this, it would be a good move for the government to take tougher action against such foreign job mafias.
According to human rights reports, children are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation and sometimes for forced labour. In the war era the LTTE forcibly recruited children for use as soldiers. It is also known that a small number of women from Thailand, China, Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union may have been trafficked into
Sri Lanka for commercial sexual exploitation.
Let us resolve today to get rid of this execrable sum of all villainies.