On the frontline in the fight against human trafficking

It’s the great pandemic of our century, a scourge on the soul of almost every nation of the earth. Today marks the UN’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, a crime which still affects millions around the world. But with organisations like IJM at the helm of the fight, there is good progress happening.

Human trafficking is estimated to affect 21 million men, women and children worldwide.

In 2013, the UN adopted July 30 as the international designated to World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Their resolution declared that such a day was critical to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

The resolution further mentioned two important ways by which the issues can be addressed: by criminalising its practice in all its forms (by traffickers and any intermediaries) and by engaging the private sector in combating human trafficking.

It has never been more evident that a combined effort and global collaboration is needed to defeat the giant of human trafficking.

With mass migration and conflicts around the world, on a scale not seen since World War II, there is a heightened challenge and complexity in tackling this global issue.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) identifies, that cross-border trafficking flows often resemble regular migration flows. Migrants, and especially refugees, are extremely vulnerable to traffickers abusing their dire situation and preying on their desperation to find a haven.

But this year, the UNODC has chosen ‘responding to the trafficking of children and young people’ as the focus of the World Day.

This is to highlight that almost a third of trafficking victims are children.

These children are stuck in the most heinous of circumstances, being denied of a childhood, their safety, dignity and well-being. Forced to work in the sex industry, exploitative labor or forced into early child marriage.

And 71 per cent or trafficked victims are women and girls.


On the front line:

International Justice Mission Australia (IJM Australia), work to protect the poor from violence in the developing world.

They are one of the formidable organisations on the front line in the fight against human trafficking.

The work of IJM Is four-fold:

  • Rescue Victims
  • Bring Criminals to Justice
  • Restore Survivors
  • Strengthen Justice Systems

Traditionally, conviction rates of traffickers have been extremely low and ineffective. But through local collaboration, IJM has many success stories of persecuting traffickers and seeking justice for the victims.


Does it work?

The work of IJM has been instrumental in countries like the Philippines, were the sex trafficking of children has been a monstrous market for years.

When IJM first started working in Cebu in the Philippines in 2006, one in every 15 sex workers were minors. Now, it is one in every 65 that are underage.

There are other stories of success happening everyday through collaboration with local law enforcement:

Last month, IJM Australia reported that a Cambodian trafficker and broker based in Thailand was arrested by the Thailand Department of Special Investigation. This man was a key player in a network responsible for the enslavement and trafficker of hundreds, if not thousands of Cambodian men, many of them young boys, into the Thai fishing industry.

IJM has supported a group of human trafficking survivors over the past two years in building sustainable lives of freedom after exploitation and collaborated to bring this case to Cambodian and Thai authorities.

This case is just one example of a growing, results-based collaboration between Thai and Cambodian law enforcement to identify trafficking networks, interview repatriated victims and follow through with arrests and prosecutions. Additional leaders in this criminal trafficking network have already been arrested and tried in Cambodia.

“This arrest in Thailand and related prosecutions in Cambodia sends a strong message to traffickers seeking to exploit migrant workers: You will be held accountable for your crimes,” said Andrew Wasuwongse, IJM Bangkok, Deputy Field Office Director. “It also signals momentum building in the fight against cross-border trafficking.”

In June this year, a 10-day international collaborative training resulted in the removal of 13 children and the arrest of 5 suspects in cases of online sexual exploitation (cybersex trafficking).

This training in the Philippines was a collaboration between The Australian Federal Police (AFP), Dutch National Police (DNP) and anti-slavery non-governmental organization (NGO) and IJM and involved 10 days of intense training for Philippine law enforcement officers on how best to combat online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC).

The training covered advanced investigative techniques that to date include five rescue operations, resulting in the rescue of 13 victims, and the arrest of 3 suspected traffickers in the Philippines. Additionally, 5 children, identified as being at risk of being trafficked were removed during the raids.


An Australian Government Response:

On a national level, Australia has a commitment to combat trafficking, mainly implement through the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Around $1 billion of our overseas development assistance (our aid program) is directed towards the South-East and East Asia. The Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking In Persons has been Australia’s approach from 2013-2018.

The ASEAN-Australia counter trafficking program seeks to build the criminal justice systems in countries in our region so that they have the capacity to deal with trafficking, people smuggling, modern slavery and other such practices.

Through this program Australia has supported 10,000 judges, prosecutors, court officials, those who have to deal with these challenging issues in their criminal justice systems.

However, a new program is currently in consultation with justice agencies and experts from the ten ASEAN Member States. The current program is set to conclude at the end of 2018, with the design for the new investment currently in process.

The Modern Slavery Legislation, which IJM Australia were instrumental with, was introduced into the Australian Parliament recently.

Assistant Minister Alex Hawke tabled the bill saying Australia has a ‘moral imperative to eradicate this practice from our supply chains and our businesses’.

According to IJM Australia; the reporting requirement has the potential to reduce the use of forced labour to produce goods sold and used by Australian companies by encouraging targeted and risk-based procurement practices.
But as IJM Australia has pointed out and advocated for: the effectiveness of the provision will depend on rigorous and sustained collaboration between business, civil society and the Government’s new Anti-Slavery Business Engagement Unit.

It will take nothing short of a global collaboration, from all sectors of society, to remove the scourge of human trafficking off the face of the earth.

Today is an important reminder of how far we’ve come, and a humbling reminder of the work yet to do.

Find out how you can support IJM Australia, and keep up to date with their work by visiting their website.

#HumanTrafficking #EndHumanTrafficking