More needed to Address the Growing Human Trafficking

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In a session on human trafficking on the opening day of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, participants were told that tougher action is needed by regional governments to address the growing problem.

In the session on forced slavery and human trafficking in the ASEAN region, Nenette Motus, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said: “Trafficking is the third most profitable crime business in the world next to guns and drugs. We have a shared responsibility. Trafficked people need our help to get them out of poverty.”

Amid revelations of slavery within the fishing industry in South-East Asia and the growing migration crisis in Europe, Motus applauded the recent move by the 10-member ASEAN bloc to sign the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) but added that more needs to be done.

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“We need to take a deeper look – at the economic components, at job creation, at recruitment, and at how to stop people being re-trafficked,” she said.

The ACTIP was passed by the ASEAN bloc in November 2015 – just months after the region was faced with a crisis of thousands of ethnic Rohingya stranded at sea – but has still to be ratified by all member states.

Christopher Ng, Regional Secretary of Asia and the Pacific at the UNI Global Union, welcomed the conversation and said he hoped it would lead to implementation of the ACTIP.

“If people want to move to other countries, it should be by choice not circumstance,” he said. “What is needed is a code of conduct to regulate recruitment agencies, so there is a way to evaluate practices on the ground.”

Social entrepreneur Pierre Tami, Founder of 360, Cambodia, highlighted the lack of country-specific knowledge which has led to the misallocation of resources. He said this perpetuates violence against vulnerable people, especially women and children.

International donors tend to prioritize funds for those who have already been trafficked, he noted, but often it is women who are victims of sexual violence that later become the most vulnerable to trafficking. “So these issues really need to be seen in a context of violence against women,” he said.

Buddhist leader Kirinde Dhammaratana Nayaka Maha Thero, Founder Ti-Ratana Welfare Society, Malaysia, said religious leaders also had a role to play.

He encouraged leaders from all faiths to come forward and collaborate to stop “the scourge” of human trafficking. “Sometimes you might think, why there is a religious leader in the forum,” he said.

“But we can contribute to society in many ways too. We can provide shelter, food and counselling. Human trafficking is a very serious issue, and a human-being created problem.”

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