Statement on migration by Francesco Rocca, Vice President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Publié: 18 décembre 2014

21 million are victims of people trafficking and modern slavery, but the issue affects us all.

The crime of people trafficking affects almost every country, but the facts behind the phenomenon need to be understood to help us grasp – and respond to – the magnitude of the issue. Understanding will help us develop projects for prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration for those who have been subject to trafficking. 

Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent forms of slavery in the 21st century. We must acknowledge that ‘slavery’ still exists in 2014, and that the majority of its victims are women and children available for exploitation through the circumstances of poverty and vulnerability. 

Modern-day slavery takes many forms, such as trafficking for unpaid/unfairly paid labour, illegal child adoption, organ smuggling, forced begging, domestic servitude and false marriages. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), roughly 21 million people are trafficked for these or other purposes. 

Studies suggest up to 70 per cent of victims are women and children. 

For traffickers, this is one of the most lucrative activities in the world, generating an estimate $32 billion US dollars a year. In fact, it is the third most profitable ‘business’ – after the sale of drugs and arms – in the world.

While a majority of trafficking victims are subjected to sexual exploitation, other forms of abuse are becoming increasingly common. Trafficking for forced labour - a broad category which includes manufacturing, cleaning, construction, catering, domestic work and textile production – has increased steadily in recent years. Some 40 per cent of the victims detected between 2010 and 2012 were trafficked for these reasons.

Trafficking for exploitation that is neither sexual nor forced labour is also increasing. Some of these forms, such as trafficking of children for armed combat, petty crime or forced begging, can be significant problems in some locations, although they are still relatively limited globally.

There are considerable regional differences with regard to forms of exploitation. While trafficking for sexual exploitation is most often found in Europe and Central Asia, forced labour is more common in East Asia and the Pacific. And in the Americas, the two types are detected in near equal proportions.

More than 90 per cent of countries among those covered by UNODC criminalize people trafficking. Many countries have passed new or updated legislation since the United Nations Protocol against Trafficking in Persons came into force in 2003. Although this legislative progress is remarkable, much work remains. Nine countries still lack legislation altogether, while 18 others have legislation that only covers some victims or certain forms of exploitation. Some of these countries are large and densely populated; more than 2 billion people lack the full protection of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. 

So in this globalised century, we are all called to build a better future by joining together in the fight against all forms of poverty, discrimination, exploitation and inequality to build a society where everybody is accepted, valued, respected and appreciated. No one is born to be a slave. Those treated as such must be rescued, rehabilitated and reintegrated to form a new, better world in which everyone has an important role to play. 

Trafficking, exploitation and slavery affect us all, and we want to see a strong economic system which provides opportunity for all and rewards work fairly. Governments have already done much to tackle the problem from a legal standpoint, but traffickers must be caught, and their victims protected and rehabilitated. And finally, we must put education at the core of our new global development agenda, so that everyone understands the impact this trade in human lives and has the knowledge necessary to end it.

Italy, too, has its fair share of victims. It is estimated that there are between 50,000 - 70,000 women from East Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe who work in nightclubs and on the streets of our urban centres and rural areas. Of these, 20% are minors—between the ages of 14 and 18. Since they have no documents – as 3 one of the first violations against victims traffickers commit is to confiscate their documents – it is difficult to assess the situation and provide clear or reliable statistics.

Before reaching their final destination in Europe, women cross several countries, such as Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, Holland, Germany, Spain and France, travelling for weeks or months over land, by air or sea. In most cases, nowadays, Nigerian women are taken across the Sahara Desert before crossing the sea with light boats to enter Italy, or other parts of Europe. Traffickers are experts in drawing new routes to avoid border controls and getting their victims where they are most needed to meet demand. 

On arrival at their destination, women’s passports or documents are seized with the empty promise of having them returned after they pay their debt bond (the price a trafficker charges a victim for transport, lodging and “work” arrangements, etc.) to the slave traders. Unfortunately, documents (which are often forged for travel) are never returned, and women remain as persons with no identity – no name, no status, no nationality.

World Migration Day flyer