Human Trafficking- a violation of human rights

| In Articles - Rights | 1st May 2022

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking and rights violation

Human trafficking constitutes a serious violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, its main goal being exploiting and having profit after it, in a forced way, against someone’s will. It is a well-organized business which generates 150 billion USD yearly, 99 billion resulting from prostitution industry.

The legal, international definition of human trafficking is found in the Trafficking Protocol, also known as the Palermo Protocols, accepted by over 150 countries which defines the term “trafficking in persons” as follows:

a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the 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 payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs .“

Source: No.36 Human Rights and Human Trafficking, UNITED NATIONS New York and Geneva, 2014.
Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 2000 (Trafficking Protocol)

Who are the Traffickers?

Traffickers are dangerous people, they can be strangers. They use manipulation, violence, lies and all kind of promises to lure people and catch them in their traps. Hard to believe, but sad truth, in many cases traffickers might be also peers, friends, spouses or romantic partners and even parents. Usually, they can be both, men or women, belonging to the same country and having the same culture, speaking a common language( so it is easier to recruit and to provide documents).

Who Are the Trafficking Victims?

Nobody is immune to human trafficking. But, in general, victims affected by human trafficking come from extremely poor backgrounds, they are vulnerable people, much often with a low level of education, they are already in precarious situations, for example, they can be neglected by parents or they lack of attention. One-third of the victims suffered violence in the family before being recruited, based on the interviews of victims on human trafficking. Their situation at home was already unbearable and they were constrained to search a light out at the end of the tunnel. Trafficking affects all countries of the world and migration constitutes a big factor of it, too. People attracted by employment opportunities abroad are vulnerable and may easily become victims of human trafficking.

How Do Traffickers Control Victims?

After the victims have been recruited, they are usually transported through other countries to the destination country. Victims realize the truth only after they get there. Documents and personal belongings are taken and they are always checked up to prevent escape. They are held captive through violence, debt bondage and threats for the people they care about.

Mostly affected are women and children and less men. Women and girls are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation. Job offers are the most common traps used by recruiters. Traffickers nowadays got more experienced, they use other ways of coercion. Increasingly, victims are exploited in more comfortable conditions. They rarely apply physical force, instead they use psychological manipulation. Thus, all responsibilities for the situations in which they are falls on the victims.

They are attracted by good job opportunities, they are made to believe that they will work as shop assistants, in food factories, housekeeping staff in hotels, waitresses or cooks at restaurants, or other professions, but instead end to work in sex industry. Boys and men are also trafficked and are forced to labor, begging and other sectors, as agriculture, construction etc. Through psychological manipulation, victims depend on traffickers. They believe that “it could have been even worse”, and sometimes the victims even thank the traffickers for the “opportunity” offered. The victims even return themselves to be exploited, voluntarily.

Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation, begging, theft and other criminal activities. According to UNICEF,

children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide.” “Trafficking is a very real threat to millions of children around the world, especially to those who have been driven from their homes and communities without adequate protection,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “These children urgently need governments to step up and put measures in place to keep them safe.

There isn’t any real case of children being abducted for organs, however many children continue to disappear, to be kidnapped, sexually abused and killed. The urban legend as if:” they took the child from his mother’s arms, took out his liver and then abandoned him in a field with flowers” doesn’t exist anymore. Nowadays, the traffickers are using other ways, they approach the child in the street, in the parks, playgrounds, schools’ or kindergartens’ entrances, places where children use to play. They usually ask a child something, an address, for example, to distract the child’s attention and to call him near the car. Once the child gets closer to the car, they try kindly to get him into the car or if nobody around they force him to get into the car. The child is immediately anesthetized with a chloroform cloth, pressed on his mouth and nose. Then, traffickers transport him to their operation base where the child is anesthetized, cut and the organs are removed. They preserve the transplantations organs in ice and then they sell them on the black market.

The Effects of Human Trafficking on Victims

Human Trafficking is a crime against a person, that’s why the consequences are felt directly by the victims, however there are social, economical and political consequences too. International Labor Organization(ILO) estimated that there were 20.9 million victims of forced labor in the world between 2002 and 2012.

It is very difficult to identify the potential victims of human trafficking and an important step to help a victim is to gain the confidence of a victim, only so it is easier to provide help and assistance.

The fundamental nature of this crime is dehumanization and the goal is to make profit. The victims can be used until exhaustion until their bodies give up and they get critically ill or worse until their life is endangered.

Typically, the effects of human trafficking on victims can be: physical and psychological/mental.

The Physical Effects

Common, physical health issues of the victims experiencing violence and harm might be the following:

  • sexually diseases, rectal trauma,HIV/AIDS, all kind of gynecologic problems resulting from prostitution, menstrual, pelvic pain, infections,urinary problems etc.
  • malnourishment
  • dental problems
  • signs of abuse, scars, bruises
  • dizziness,weakness,numbness and headaches
  • diverse injuries, broken bones,burns,concussions
  • traumas including memory loss
  • chronic respiratory problems
  • chronic cardiovascular problems
  • eyes problems
  • other skin infections

The Psychological/Mental Effects

The psychological/mental effect is more dangerous and severe than the physical one.(WHO,2012). Victims who have been saved might present mental illnesses and diverse psychological issues. Consider the following symptoms:

  • Depression-Isolation
  • PTSD (Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal tendency
  • Substance abuse(alcohol or drugs)
  • Stockholm syndrome
  • Panic Disorder
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Fear, nightmares

The victims feel alone and unwanted. They also feel ashamed and guilty, usually blaming themselves for what happened. Knowing the consequences of human trafficking and understanding them is very necessary and important for the process of recovery of the victim. All persons related to the victim(family members, friends) have to be trained to not aggravate the victim’s condition. The majority of the victims who escaped from a situation of human trafficking risked their lives. They have been subjects of serious physical and emotional traumas, they went through extreme situations. The feeling of security and safety was unknown to them, the normal feelings of a human being had been destroyed. Restoring these feelings is much difficult, but possible. And this is the first step of the rehabilitation process.

Global Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

Many states and governments have a high interest to this phenomenon, because it constitutes a violation of human rights. In performing the victims’ rights there are special and absolutely necessary international standards to protect the victims who suffered of human trafficking and also to prevent human trafficking. The international measures against human trafficking date back in 1999. At the beginning of the 21st century , human trafficking was in the center of attention and the first international act was signed.

In this sense we shall refer to the international standards developed by OHCHR, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that have been issued as a result of the initiatives and efforts of the GAATW (Global Aliance Against Trafficking of Women) and the IHRLG (International Human Rights Law Group).

Cooperation among states is absolutely essential for Standards. These standards have at their basis many legislative instruments based on human rights and international law officially recognized. They aim to promote and protect respectful attitude to the victims of the human trafficking and those subjected to enslavement, forced labor and other practices. Human Rights Standards protects the rights of the persons ensuring efficient legal protection, legal remedy, non-discriminatory treatment, recovery and social reintegration.

In the spirit of these international acts, states are obliged to respect and ensure respect for human rights, they have to prevent infringement, to investigate them and take action against offenders, to take redress and repair damage suffered by the persons as a result of human trafficking.

There are also a various number of UN anti-trafficking tools, programs and agencies to fight against this global problem.

Among them:

  • UN Global Plan(adopted in 2010)
  • IOM (International Organization for Migration)
  • EU
  • From 2000, the UE adopted a multidisciplinary approach fighting against human trafficking adopting various prevention programs such as: STOP I, II , AGIS, DAPHNE I, II, III;
  • The Council of Europe
  • ILO (International Labor Organization)
  • OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe)

All the organizations engaged and determined to eliminate labor,sex and organ trafficking developed a comprehensive strategy having the main priorities the traffic prevention, the identification of victims through appropriate training of persons who may come into contact with potential victims, as well as their support and protection. In the absence of these organized and coordinated measures, human trafficking will never be stopped or even reduced.

It is also worthy to know and to mention the most important international NGOs which contributed a lot in the discovering, assisting and providing help to victims. These are:

  • Amnesty International
  • Anti-Slavery International
  • La Strada International
  • Terre des Hommes
  • Statistics:

Eurostat published two documents on EU-level statistics in 2013-2014, updated in 2015-2016.Data for 2015-2016 showed similar patterns among the registered victims and of traffickers who came into contact with the police and the criminal justice system,compared to those found in previous reporting periods. There are many reasons to consider these victims and many traffickers remained undetected,thus they do not figure in the reported documents.

In 2015-2016 there were 20,532 victims of human trafficking in UE. More than half (56%) were cases of sexual exploitation; 26% were cases of persons trafficked for labor exploitation;18% cases of other forms as begging and organ trafficking.

States Responsibilities

As already mentioned, all States are obliged to recognize and defend the human rights of all persons on their territories and to provide all means of achievement of the rights of each person, including information, capacity and structures. Recognizing and respecting the given obligations, States must periodically review their legislation to ensure its conformity with the international standards and its effectiveness in combating trafficking and defending the rights of the trafficked persons.

Respectively, States must respect:

  • the Principle of Non-Discrimination (trafficked persons cannot be subjected to any discriminatory treatment)
  • The Safety and Fair Treatment(access to embassy, consulate or other non-governmental organizations)
  • Protection (safety of the trafficked persons and their witnesses )
  • Access to Justice
  • Residence Permit for Victims
  • Access to Civil Proceedings and Compensation
  • Healthcare and Other Services

In spite of all which have been said above and after years of fighting this criminal phenomenon, human trafficking still exists and it is more difficult to combat. The phenomenon still grows, that’s why it renders one of the greatest worldwide concern.