IOM chief calls for upholding rights of migrants
In a write-up, Ambassador Swing said world leaders would gather on September 19 in New York for the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants. He viewed the meeting as an opportunity to keep the issue in the spotlight.
“As I travel the globe, I am dismayed by the exploitation suffered by our fellow human beings who are being forced to labour with little or no pay on farms, in fishing boats, in factories, on construction sites, in pit mines, hidden away in private homes, or forced into sexual exploitation,” he observed.
Themigrants were forced to labour under the threat of violence and through unconscionable systems of debt bondage, the IOM head wrote, noting considerable progress made in creating legal frameworks that better protected those identified as victims of trafficking.
IOM, its partners and other organisations continue to respond to the needs of victims of trafficking and to identify and protect persons vulnerable to trafficking, including during and in the aftermath of crises such as natural disasters or conflicts.
In many countries, he said, trafficked persons, quite often migrants, had access to temporary residence, safe accommodation, medical and psychosocial support, and assisted voluntary return and reintegration opportunities. A few have even been provided with compensation.
“A noteworthy development is that combating human trafficking is now integrated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, reflecting a continuing political commitment to address
ing the issue,” Swing said.
However, the numbers of beneficiaries of protection remained small --especially when compared with the millions who continued to be exploited, the American diplomat explained.
“In truth, the line that separates a trafficked person from many exploited or abused migrants is blurred at best, and difficult to draw when people are fleeing from conflict or disaster.
“A migrant – especially if he is young, male and working illegally and therefore doesn’t fit the standard stereotype of a victim of trafficking – is unlikely even to be screened for possible exploitation or trafficking,” the IOM chief continued.
He underlined a protection disparity between those migrants identified as ‘trafficked’ and those who are not. He stressed the need to bridge the gap between the large number of exploited people and the very few that were identified.
Some of the world’s 244 million international migrants are among the most vulnerable to trafficking and associated forms of exploitation and abuse. Many lack the legal status or recognition of their professional credentials that would allow them to be lawfully and gainfully employed.
Many others were disconnected from the social networks to which they might normally turn for support in times of difficulty, Swing said. Many irregular migrants in particular lack knowledge of their rights, the financial resources required to assert them, and the confidence that government officials will respect them.
Complex and protracted humanitarian and migration crises, such as armed conflicts, further increase vulnerabilities and in some cases, have led to an increase in human trafficking, according to the official.
In some instances, the conflict itself may lead to the emergence of specific forms of crisis-related trafficking in persons. Trafficking in persons is a direct result of disaster.
“The forthcoming UN Summit Refugees and Migrants also puts the spotlight on the specific vulnerabilities to trafficking, exploitation and abuse of migrants travelling within large movements,” the IOM DG believed.
He added those affected were in desperate need of assistance and protection -- a major challenge for front-line responders who often lack the time, resourcesand established processes necessary for victim identification, referral and assistance.
As a result, he pointed out,many victims are not afforded the protections they were entitled to.
“There is no quick or easy way to ensure that those who most need our assistance and protection will receive it. However, the starting point is quite clear: we must make it clear that all migrants are entitled to the full realization of their rights.
“In order to achieve this, we must change the current toxic narrative on migration. We must seize the opportunity to campaign for a fundamental shift in public perceptions of migrants and migration.
“Xenophobic language and hate speech should have no place in political discourse or media communication. Migration is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be managed,” Swing said.
In tackling human trafficking and other forms of exploitation, he called for upholding migrants’ rights as human rights and their entitlement to the same respect and dignity to which all persons were entitled. “We must all strive for this and remain united in the fight against human trafficking.”
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