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700,000 People Are Victims Of Human Trafficking Each Year - 2002-10-24

A new report says 700-thousand people worldwide are victims of human trafficking each year. Many of them are from Africa. The report, released by the London-based Anti-Slavery International, says governments must do more to protect victims’ rights and prosecute traffickers.

The report – called “Human Traffic, Human Rights” – looks at how authorities in ten countries, including Nigeria, “treat adults who have been trafficked.”

Anti-Slavery International says, “governments increasingly respond to trafficking through restrictive immigration policies.” But it says these policies “only make migrants more vulnerable to traffickers.” The report says governments may send trafficked people back to their home countries, where conditions exposed them to trafficking in the first place. It says, “as a result, they may be in serious physical danger and also at high risk of being re-trafficked.”

Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi is executive director of WOCON, the Women’s Consortium of Nigeria. She helped write the Anti-Slavery International report and has studied human trafficking in her country.

She says, "It’s very serious because we have internal trafficking, which has been going on for several years of children from rural areas, who are trafficked to the urban areas for domestic work and sometimes for prostitution. And we also have children who are trafficked out of Nigeria to some African countries to work in farm plantations. And we also have other children coming from neighboring countries in West Africa – from republic of Benin, from Togo, from Ghana into Nigeria. And we have women, young women and also children, going to Europe and the Middle East for prostitution."

She says it’s very difficult to say exactly how many Nigerians are the victims of trafficking.

She says, "When you talk about trafficking, it’s the most difficult phenomenon to put specific statistics. And I cannot even rely on any statistics that we get. But we have an insight into the number that we think will be out there because of those who are deported, especially by the European countries and from the Middle East. And they run into the thousands. We learned at a point in time that over ten thousand Nigerian girls are on the streets of Italy alone."

Ms. Olateru-Olagbegi says poverty is a driving force behind human trafficking. She says people who need money are more easily exploited. And there is a lot of money to be made by selling poor people.

She says, "It’s one of the most lucrative trades in the whole world because it’s a trade that’s predicated on the exploitation of other people. And it is a trade that is done in a clandestine manner. It is very difficult to actually track down the traffickers."

The Anti-Slavery International report makes many recommendations to combat the problem. The executive director of the Women’s Consortium of Nigeria says bridging the financial gap between rich and poor nations would help create job opportunities for young people.

Ms. Olateru-Olagbegi says, "We also need to have a relaxation of migration laws. If we say we want globalization, we want free trade, we want free movement, then we should be allowed to move freely."

Among other things, the report also recommends raising the awareness and sensitivity of the general public to human rights; providing victim and witness protection as well as free legal representation; and free access to counseling to deal with psychological trauma.