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UN Proposes Global Fund to Battle Human Trafficking

The United Nations along with other organizations has proposed a new global fund to fight international human trafficking and forced labor, which it says have grown to epidemic proportions. The report was launched in London Monday, a day after the bicentenary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the British Empire. From London, Tendai Maphosa has more on the story for VOA.

Slavery is a booming international trade that involves several million people a year being trafficked, according to Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime. Costa announced the new global initiative against slavery in London.

The United Nations estimates that, at any given time, 2.5 million people are being trafficked and enslaved, although the crime is frequently unreported and many estimates of the number of victims are far higher.

The U.N.'s Costa says the trade in humans is now a market worth $30 to $40 billion and often is linked to organized crime. He says that while there is finally a growing awareness on the issue, more needs to be done. The U.N. Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons, which has been ratified by 110 countries, makes trafficking an international crime. But Costa said that because of weak law enforcement in some countries, the problem continues to grow.

A recent report by the U.N. Office of on Drugs and Crime identifies Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine among the countries that are the greatest sources of trafficked persons.

Mary Goudie, a member of the House of Lords, hosted the launch. In an interview with VOA, she praised the initiative for raising awareness about the issue.

"By having this initiative here today in London, it starts once again to profile what is happening round the world," she said. "If we didn't have this initiative people would not know that this is happening. Also, people will realize that they have to open their eyes to it."

Goudie added that the British government had shown its commitment to the fight against human trafficking by signing up to the European Convention on Human Trafficking last Friday. The agreement gives victims such as women forced into prostitution the right to stay in Britain for at least 30 days after escaping the grasp of traffickers.

A series of events throughout the world will culminate in Vienna with an International Conference against Human Trafficking in November.