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Symposium 2010

Proposal - Stopping Human Trafficking

The Challenge

At least 12 million people worldwide are trapped in conditions of forced labor, a fifth of them being exploited as a result of human trafficking. These forms of modern day slavery have become one of t ...

At least 12 million people worldwide are trapped in conditions of forced labor, a fifth of them being exploited as a result of human trafficking. These forms of modern day slavery have become one of the most profitable and most horrifying businesses in the world. Human trafficking and coerced labor are said to be the fastest growing source of income for organized crime and its third most important source after drugs and the arms trade.

1. Raise awareness on risks of trafficking and exploitation

A globally coordinated campaign should raise awareness of the scale and real nature of human trafficking and labor exploitation. The campaign should be based on pooled resources of governments, NGOs, international organizations and the media. Higher levels of awareness are essential to protect migrants from wrong choices and lower social tolerance of exploitative working conditions. Migrant-sending countries should specifically target potential migrants and provide objective information on the risks of trafficking and exploitation. To be comprehensive and meaningful, such information must include illegal migration options. Political sensitivities about the illegal nature of some options may place NGOs in a better position to help migrants assess their risks of trafficking and exploitation. Migrants should also be informed on their rights abroad including potential complaint mechanisms.

2. Protect and empower migrants and victims abroad

Migrants and victims of human trafficking need to be better assisted. Abroad, all foreign workers should be able to seek effective help and legal protection irrespective of their legal status. Besides toll-free numbers, assistance could be given in “One Stop Shops” that include victim rehabilitation and psychological assistance. These centers could be run by NGOs or public authorities, but should be detached from police or border enforcement agencies. Migrants should be facilitated and encouraged to file complaints against exploitative employers, recruiters and traffickers without having to fear legal consequences themselves. Besides, embassies should establish special task forces and assistance centers to offer alternative ways to protect their nationals working legally and illegally abroad.

3. Supervise employment agencies and recruitment processes

Employment and recruitment processes must be subject to more scrutiny and taken out of the shadows. Migrant-sending and receiving governments should coordinate the regulation of recruitment agencies and improve working conditions of all migrants. Only employment agencies with certified practices should be allowed to operate across borders. Work contracts should be standardized, easily understandable and contain clear regulations with regard to payment of wages, overtime and retention of identity documents. To minimize instances of debt bondage and wage arrears, migrants’ remuneration should be subject to independent control, e.g. via the supervision of wage payments to migrant accounts.

4. Toughen laws and enforcement at the national and global level

Trafficking and exploitation should be punished as a severe penal offence in both sending and receiving countries, with punishment going beyond mere monetary fines. National and international laws should be strengthened and more resources are needed to aggressively investigate and prosecute traffickers, exploitative employers and recruitment agencies who violate laws. This may require special cross-border prosecution units, which incorporate both police and labor inspection agencies.

5. Foster private sector initiatives to clean the supply chain

Forced labor and trafficking should be made a core issue of supply chain and human resource management. High-risk suppliers should be asked to be certified by third parties or agree to be audited against established codes of conduct. More generally, businesses should raise awareness among their employees, clients and suppliers and give targeted training sessions to its upper and lower management. Moreover, firms should be given incentives for monitoring and cleaning the supply chain. One way is to reward good practice e.g. via international prices and awards. Another way is to establish certificates for “slave-free labor”. In severe cases, firms should also be hold responsible for the use of intermediate products which have been produced under extremely exploitative conditions.

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