Thursday, February 12, 2009

UN: Many countries ill-equipped to deal with human trafficking

Vienna - A large number of countries around the world are still lacking tools to identify, report or prosecute human trafficking, a United Nations report made public on Thursday found. Although more countries adopted laws against human trafficking between 2003 and 2008, 61 of 155 monitored countries did not record a single conviction, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

"Either they are blind to the problem, or they are ill-equipped to deal with it," UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa said in the report, which he was set to formally issue later Thursday in New York.

At 79 per cent, sexual exploitation is the predominant reason for human trafficking, followed by forced labour. But there were worrying instances of new types of trafficking, including trade with human organs, the report said.

Southern Africa was cited as the region with the weakest mechanisms for prosecuting and reporting abuses. Of the 11 countries in the region, only Zambia has prosecuted suspects since 2003.

Some countries, including China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, did not provide any data to the UNODC.

UN researchers were surprised to find that women account for a large share not only of victims but also traffickers in many regions. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, more 60 per cent of convicted human traffickers are women.

The UNODC said it was alarmed by reports of cases involving new forms of trafficking, including for organ trade in Europe and other regions, ritual killings in Southern Africa and forced marriages in Asia.

The report provided no data regarding the global scale of the problem, noting only that the total number of identified victims rose from 11,700 to 14,900 between 2003 and 2006 in 71 selected countries.

According to earlier UN estimates, annual profits from human trafficking are 32 billion dollars. Around 2.5 million people are estimated to be held in forced labour, including forced sex, at any given time.

Citing a lack of information, the report said: "Today, the member states lack the ability to say with any precision how many victims of human trafficking there are, where they come from or where they are going."


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