The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime have released a new report on human trafficking – or the movement of people into situations of forced labour.
The ILO estimates up to two million more people are trapped each year, 80% of whom are trafficked into sexual exploitation.
Trafficking comes in the form of kidnapping, deceit (such as telling people you are recruiting them for hospitality work, and then putting them into prostitution when they arrive), and recruitment for work without telling them they will be held in debt bondage.
The ways of holding people vary from being locked up to holding people’s immigration documents/falsifying them, threats and violence, threats of violence to family members, debt bondage, and moving people regularly. Sometimes trafficked people will not even know which country they are in – and often, of course, they will be in countries where they do not speak the language.
The new report appears to me to add very little to information on human trafficking – despite clocking in at a massive 292 pages. The country sections are so brief as to be nearly useless. The UK page has almost no new information from what was known when I worked (from 2002 to 2005) at the Poppy Project in London with women trafficked into prostitution.
The New Zealand page is ridiculous:
The New Zealand Police, Immigration and New Zealand Customs are the law enforcement agencies responsible for cases of trafficking. No cases of trafficking in persons were investigated, prosecuted or resulted in conviction during the reporting period.
State authorities and NGOs provide legal protection, temporary stay permits, medical and psychosocial support and housing for victims of trafficking. No victims of trafficking were identified or sheltered by State authorities during the reporting period.
Firstly, just where are these services for victims?
Secondly, I have written before on why I think there are indications of trafficking into New Zealand’s sex industry. Getting a report that we supposedly have everything in place to deal with trafficking but can find none taking place is an odd kind of magic trick, isn’t it?
As disturbing though, is that such an enormous report should be written by the United Nations – costing who knows what – when it is so limited. What, exactly, was the point?
I’m curious that I recognise not one of the researchers despite working in the field recently for three years, and being in touch with academics, UN officials, NGOs and researchers all over the world.
Which may explain one of their odder “conclusions” – that women are involved “disproportionately” as traffickers. They say:
Female offenders have a more prominent role in present-day slavery than in most other forms of crime. This fact needs to be addressed, especially the cases where former victims have become perpetrators.
Ah, but then the detail. Turns out they are basing this quite surprising (to me) statement on convictions in trafficking. Not who people said they had been trafficked by – which would have produced far more information.
Turns out too, that they are comparing convictions with convictions – so trafficking with all other offences.
And it turns out, in Latvia, for example, the only country in which women outnumber men as traffickers, that only 26 people were prosecuted over the period examined, 14 of whom were women.
In France, where women are next most likely to offend, turns out the majority of charges are laid for “soliciting prostitution.”
This is disturbing stuff. A report given the stamp of the UN which “investigates” trafficking in a bumbling, superficial way, coming to such controversial conclusions.
In my experience, more than 90% of those involved in trafficking the women I worked with were men – from recruitment in countries of origin like Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierre Leone and Thailand – to enforcement of enslavement in the UK.
There were some women traffickers, and they tended to be just as cruel as male traffickers, with the exception of using sexual violence as a means of control. They also tended to be women who had previously worked in prostitution themselves – as victims of trafficking, often for many, many years – who were now in positions of power. Jailed turned jailor.
No stars for the United Nations on this report. What a waste of money, time and paper.