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    IOM Statment in Lviv 1998

    L'viv, Ukraine,
    9-10 July 1998

    Statement by

    Mrs. Narcisa Escaler,
    Deputy Director General
    International Organization for Migration (IOM)

    at the

    United States - European Union Transatlantic Seminar to Prevent Trafficking in Women

    Madam/Mister Chairman,
    Distinguished delegates,

    INTRODUCTION

    I am very pleased to be here with you today in L'viv on the occasion of the United States-European Union Transatlantic Seminar to Prevent Trafficking in Women, which IOM has helped organize. I would like to thank our Ukrainian hosts for their warm hospitality, and their own contribution to the work we are doing here.

    As all of us gathered here in Líviv have realized that, while trafficking in migrants continues to grow, its more heinous form in the trafficking of women and children is a phenomenon which has increased at an even more alarming rate throughout the world. Often organized by criminal networks, a situation which often involves violence and exploitation of these women and children, this disturbing development has further increased the urgency for the international community to better coordinate their efforts in addressing it. This seminar is an important undertaking towards this objective.

    The kind of co-operation among the European Union, the United States, the Governments of Poland and Ukraine and all of the other organizations, particularly the NGOs participating in this seminar is an encouraging demonstration that trafficking is not just something we talk about, but also something we are determined to do something about. In this regard, it will be useful to review our respective experiences and current initiatives to draw conclusions on how we can more co-operatively and effectively move to discourage women trafficking and help its victims.

    GENERAL MIGRATION CONTEXT

    Distinguished delegates,

    Contemporary population movements are characterized by increasing pressures by individuals seeking through migration either to escape war, persecution, poverty or human rights violations, or simply to find better economic opportunities. We also see an increased feminization of general migratory movements today.

    At the same time, many states have imposed stricter border controls and entry requirements. Thus, in much of the world, the possibilities for legal migration have decreased, even though considerable demand persists in destination countries for certain categories of foreign labour. This demand serves as a pull factor for migration. Parallel to this, well-known push factors in the form of economic inequalities, conflict, natural disaster and deprivation of human rights all serve to prompt growing needs and desires to leave home for a better life elsewhere. One major result of the interaction of these factors has been an increase in irregular, transborder movements. This is the irregular phenomenon of which trafficking is but one part, albeit often a particularly abusive part, especially as it relates to women and children.

    This unabated demand for migration, coupled with stricter entry controls or requirements, has provided unscrupulous entrepreneurs with a potential for profit. The number of persons attempting to enter a country clandestinely has given rise to a market for services such as the provision of fraudulent travel documents, transportation, guided border crossings, accommodation and job brokering. Traffickers exploit the phenomenon of irregular migration and supply these services to would be migrants, and always at a cost which is usually considerable.

    In this connection, the question of the voluntariness of the movement of trafficked migrants merits particular attention. For many migrants who are eager to escape poverty or political and social insecurity, and who are unaware or unmindful of the pitfalls of irregular migration, it seems worth paying a fee to try their luck, thereby allowing their dream for a better life to be exploited by traffickers. But, in many instances, trafficked migrants are lured by false promises, misled by misinformation concerning migration regulations, or driven by economic despair or large scale violence. In such cases, the migrant's freedom of choice is so seriously impaired that the "voluntariness" of the transaction must be questioned.

    Today, trafficking in human beings is a global business, generating huge profits for traffickers and organized crime syndicates, creating serious problems for governments of the countries involved and potentially exposing migrants to abuse and exploitation. Traffickers profit from nonexistent or relatively lax sanctions in many parts of the world, and a lack of awareness on the part of potential migrants of the dangers of being trafficked.

    TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN

    We are of course very much aware that one form of irregular migration which has become widespread and particularly alarming today is trafficking in women, the focus of our meeting here in Líviv. This is part of the broader illegal migration phenomenon yet it differs from other forms of migrant trafficking. It differs because trafficking in women is also part of the exploitation of women that has occurred throughout history and across cultures, and it is an issue of both gender and abuse of basic rights. Since the individual often gets lost in the aggregate, let me inject a brief story here. Tatyana is 20 years old. She is from a small town in Lugansk oblast in Eastern Ukraine. It is impossible for her to get a job there, because most industrial facilities in town are idle. A friend of her mother proposed her a housemaid job for a rich family in the United Arab Emirates. She was promised a $4,000 monthly income there, while at home she could not find a job that paid even a tiny fraction of that amount. However, when she arrived in the UAE, she was stripped of her passport, sold to a brothel and forced to receive clients in order to repay the fees she supposedly owed to the owner, who bought her for $7,000. Her nightmare did not end even after she managed to escape: she was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for working in an underground brothel after she turned to the police for help. Now Tatyana is eleven months into her sentence. Her mother, who calls an IOM-sponsored telephone hotline periodically, is crying for help.

    Trafficking in women is a multifaceted problem which has the following 3 elements:

    1. Trafficking in women is very much a part of the larger migration picture. It is subject to the same interplay of supply and demand, and the same lack of legal migration opportunities, as regular migration. In a survey on migration intentions of Ukrainian women for example, IOM found that 40% of the women surveyed were at risk of becoming a victim of trafficking, as most wanted to leave the country because of unemployment, poverty or worsening living conditions. Other surveys done by IOM reveal that demand for women from Eastern Europe and the NIS is very high in the international commercial sex markets. When searching therefore for longer term solutions it is important to bear constantly in mind the root causes of trafficking in women for sexual exploitation which are: poverty, lack of opportunities, scarce resources, low status of women in society as well as political and economic instability. In the longer run, Governments and the international community must, as they agreed in the Cairo Conference, work closely together to address these root causes and hopefully make staying at home again a realistic option for these migrants.

    2. Trafficking in women is a problem of corruption, organized crime and law enforcement. The discrepancy between the high demands for migrant labour in informal economic sectors, on the one hand, and the diminishing legal channels of migration in traditional host countries, on the other hand, provides the opening for organized crime to exploit the issue. This has substantially contributed to the alarming growth of the business of women trafficking. Because trafficking in women brings huge profits but carries little risk for those who organize it, the rewards are great. This encourages criminal groups to expand their business. As they offer security protection, logistical support and liaison with brothel owners in many countries, the involvement of organized crime networks is as much a necessity as it is a reality. Their sophistication has posed grave challenges to legislative and law enforcement authorities, and their violent nature has rendered their victims extremely vulnerable

    3. Trafficking in women must be viewed and addressed as a human rights violation - a number of serious offences often associated with trafficking in women such as extortion, debt bondage, indentured servitude, sexual violence and exploitation through prostitution, violate the basic human rights of these women. However, while often trafficking in women is linked to forced prostitution, not all women are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Many are traded too for arranged marriages, as domestic and constructions workers or even as beggars which also expose them to exploitations and abuse.

    These offences and the methods used by criminal traffickers to attract and exploit their victims are what makes trafficking in women a particularly deplorable kind of migration, and what sets it apart from other kinds of movement, including that of consensual sex-workers who may not suffer such abuse. The need to provide adequate protection and assistance to victims of such abuse is urgent, and the European guidelines adopted at the EU Ministerial Conference in The Hague in 1997 are a welcome guide to this.

    IOM's RESPONSE TO DATE

    Distinguished delegates,

    As an intergovernmental organization whose global mandate is to promote orderly migration, IOM has been charged by its members to address migratory problems -- including irregular migration and trafficking -- in a comprehensive way through policy-relevant research and forum activities, and through practical programmes based on these.

    As a result of the 4th UN Conference on Women in Beijing, IOM has identified trafficking in women as a priority area for international attention and has since then, pursued concrete activities to address the issue in a more coherent, integrated and consistent way. Based on this comprehensive approach, IOM has carried out a number of programmes including research, information campaigns, technical cooperation and return and reintegration assistance.

    Allow me to briefly elaborate on these:

    Since 1993, IOM has sought to provide a forum for discussion between Governments, aimed at fostering understanding and coordinating measures to combat migrant trafficking, especially women trafficking. In this framework, IOM has organized several conferences and seminars on this issue, more recently the Conference of Trafficking in Women to Countries of the European Union, which the EU held in Vienna in 1996.

    Given the very nature of trafficking and its recent resurgence on a large scale, accurate and up-to-date data are scarce. This has led IOM to carry out a number of research studies on trafficking of women for sexual exploitation in Western, Eastern and Central Europe, the Caribbean and the Asian Region. The two most recent of these studies dealt with trafficking in Filipino women to Japan, and Cambodian women and children who were stranded in Thailand.

    Similarly, the increasing problem of trafficking has led the European Union to establish a Joint Action Program - the STOP Programme - which sets out to combat trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation in EU members states. The STOP Committee tasked IOM to undertake a study on the Analysis of Data and Statistical Resources Available in the EU Member states on trafficking in humans, particularly in women and children. The purpose of this study has been to review the availability of data and adequacy of statistical and other data in the 15 EU member states and in selected source and transit countries.

    IOM has also carried out information dissemination programmes in the countries of origin in an effort to inform potential migrants of the risks of irregular migration. Accurate, timely information about migration and trafficking which is disseminated to would be migrants gives those people the means to make an informed choice about migrating. Information is thus an empowerment tool especially for women, diminishing the possibility of traffickers being able to exploit a lack of knowledge in potential migrants. IOM has successfully carried out information programs in a number of migrant sending countries such as Albania and Romania, and more recently in the Philippines, and now in Ukraine.

    IOM also publishes a quarterly newsletter called Trafficking in Migrants which has regularly focused on issues related to trafficking in women.

    Under its Technical Cooperation on Migration Programme, IOM is also able to provide technical assistance, training and equipment to government authorities to promote the establishment of effective migration management systems. IOM's programmes have focused on migration administration, updating entry and exit procedures, providing document and fraud detection expertise and other similar activities. It is also relevant in terms of the creation of migration legislation and policy.

    Recognizing the urgency of also dealing with the consequences of trafficking for sexual exploitation for the victims, IOM has begun to develop projects for the return and reintegration of migrant women who have been subjected to abuse, enabling them to return to their home countries in dignity and safety. In Asia, a first small pilot project has helped some 100 women to return from Thailand to their home countries where they are provided with a one year reintegration component that includes skills training, counselling and some income generating activities. Building on this experience, IOM is exploring ways to offer similar assistance to women and children trafficked to Western Europe from Easter Europe, Latin America and other countries, in collaboration with Governments and NGOs in both destination and origin countries.

    IOM PROJECT IN UKRAINE

    Distinguished delegates,

    The joint US/EU initiative which brings us together today is a much welcome and necessary step to raise the awareness of the phenomenon of trafficking in women in this part of the world, as well as to strengthen cooperative and coordination efforts among relevant governmental, intergovernmental and non governmental institutions.

    IOM is pleased to have taken part in this initiative, implementing the information campaign against trafficking in women from Ukraine, in partnership with the Government of Ukraine. This campaign, one of two presentations of which will be presented to you this morning has targeted both the potential victims of trafficking as well as government authorities with a role in preventing this vicious trade. Preliminary independent evaluation indicates that the issue has received considerable coverage and attention. This we find, has already helped create a sense of urgency to address the plight of a growing number of girls and women in this country trapped in what can be called a modern form of slavery.

    Aside from its information dissemination component, IOM's project includes activities which are integral to its technical cooperation and capacity building programs with the governments of the region. In Ukraine, within the framework of the Capacity Building and Migration Management Progamme recently endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers, IOM is working with the government in three key areas, namely, migration policy and management, legislation and border mechanisms. Legislative and border initiatives aim both to check the penetration of traffickers and organized crime networks, and to facilitate the flows of legal labour migration. Prevention of trafficking in women will be an integral part of the migration management policy being developed with the Government of Ukraine. A national coordinating committee on trafficking in women and children will also be established within the framework of this programme. In this connection, we are grateful for the support we have received and the close cooperation we have with the Office of the national ombudes person and the Ministry of Family and Youth.

    CONCLUSION

    Distinguished delegates,

    Trafficking in migrants, and especially trafficking in women is a modern migration challenge demanding a strong, comprehensive and harmonised response from the international community. Governments, international and non governmental organizations from sending, transit and receiving countries must all work hand in hand to ensure a more effective response to this alarming phenomenon. There is also an urgent need to come up with concrete programs that address prevention before victimization takes place. We believe that an effective information campaign is a critical first step.

    Let me conclude by assuring all of you once again of IOM's firm and continuing commitment to the fight against migrant trafficking especially as it affects women migrants. In the presentation and panel discussions today and tomorrow, we hope that we can together agree on further cooperation to help win this fight.

    Thank you.


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