Today, there are about 10 million Filipinos overseas with 70 percent of them being women. They are found in 192 countries all over the world. Migration is a phenomenon of the 21st century. Because migration has the face of women, the women become victims of human trafficking.
The Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons to the UN Convention against Transnational Crime defines:
“Trafficking in persons” as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payment of benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose exploitation.
Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
The consent of victim of trafficking in person to be intended (for) exploitation set forth in this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth above have been used;
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in this article.
The protocol, in the preambular parts, expresses grave concern over the significant and increasing activities of transnational criminal organizations that profit from international trafficking in persons and declares that effective action to combat such global evil requires a comprehensive international approach should include measures to PREVENT the occurrence of such crime, to PUNISH traffickers and to PROTECT the victims, particularly their basic, inalienable human rights as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Specific obligations to criminalize trafficking are set in Article 3, namely:
1. To adopt legislative and other measures as may be necessary under domestic law; and
2. To impose penalties under domestic law, taking into account the gravity of the specific offenses.
Measures to protect and rehabilitate the victims are likewise stipulated, namely:
1. To protect the privacy and identify of victims of trafficking in persons including, inter alia, by making legal proceeding relating to trafficking confidential;
2. To provide information on relevant court and administrative proceedings; as well as assistance to enable their views and concerns to be presented and considered at appropriate stages of criminal proceedings against offenders, in a manner not prejudicial to the rights of the defense;
3. To provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims in cooperation with civil society in the provision of:
· Appropriate housing;
· Counseling and information as regards their rights in the language they can understand;
· Medical, psychological and material assistance; and
· Employment, education and training opportunities
In all efforts, States are mandated by the Convention to take into account the age, gender and special needs of victims trafficking in persons, in particular, the needs of children. States are also mandated to allow victims of trafficking in persons to remain in their territory, temporarily or permanently, and to give suitable consideration to humanitarian and compassionate needs.
Further, measures including scheme for cooperation to prevent trafficking are also spelt out in the optional protocol.
In order to establish an early warning system, law enforcement, immigration and/or other relevant authorities of State parties shall cooperate by exchanging information on the types of travel documents that individuals have used or attempted to use to cross an international border for the purpose of trafficking in persons and the means of methods used by organized criminals groups for trafficking in persons, including the recruitment and transportation of victims, routes and links between among individuals and groups engaged in such trafficking, including possible measures for detecting them.
States parties are called upon to provide or strengthen training for law enforcement, immigration and other relevant officials in the prevention of trafficking in persons. The training should focus on methods used in preventing such trafficking, prosecuting the traffickers, and protecting the rights of the victims, including protecting the victims from traffickers.
The training should also take in to account the need to consider human rights and child-and gender-sensitive issues and should encourage cooperation with NGOs and other relevant organizations and other elements of civil society.
Other forms of cooperation could be in border control; mutual legal assistance; extradition; coalition-building and networking.
Article 6 of the optional protocol defines the mode for repatriating victims as follows.
“The State of which a victim of trafficking in persons is a national or in which the person had the right of permanent residence at the time of entry into the receiving State Party, shall facilitate and accept with due regard for the safety of that person, the return of that person without undue or unreasonable delay”.
In order to facilitate the return of victims who are without proper documentation, the State party of which he or she had the right of permanent residence at the time of entry into the receiving State Party, shall facilitate and accept with due regard for the safety of that person, the return of that person without undue or unreasonable delay. Such return should be affected in a safe and dignified manner.
In order to facilitate the return of victims who are without proper documentation, the State party of which he or she the right of permanent residence at the time of entry into the receiving State Party shall agree to issue, at the request of the receiving State Party, such travel documents or other authorization as may be necessary to enable the person to re-enter its territory.
I should like to turn to another problem associated with human trafficking and human smuggling, that is, the accompanying risk to health. Because of the illicit nature of almost trafficking routes, there is constant risk or serious injury or even death. Trafficked migrants frequently undertake long and dangerous voyages, traverse difficult terrain and seas, and are often concealed in vehicles or containers. There are the risks of illness, disease, injury and death before the journey begins, during the movement, and after the arrival at the destination.
Furthermore, as many trafficked migrants come from developing countries, their arrival in a more developed destination may create additional health burdens in the destination country and more problems for the illegal migrants themselves.
Some of the disease-risk potential may be from transmissible agents, as TB, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. On the other hand, there is hard evidence that even non-contagious diseases such as cardiovascular and psychological illnesses may be a significant problem associated with human trafficking.
Individuals working in the field of migration and migration and health be trained and equipped to recognize human trafficking as an important social and health problem.
The Way Forward
The well-being and dignity of human beings must be promoted and protected at all times. Human trafficking is a crime against humanity.
This menace can be eradicated from the face of the earth through (1) prevention (2) protection (3) prosecution of the criminals (4) rehabilitation and reintegration of victims into society. Given this collective political will and cooperation of sending, transit and receiving countries, this can be done.
As Assistant Secretary for the UNIO, DFA, the author participated in the negotiation on the subject UN Protocol.