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UN Launches New Program Against Human Trafficking - 2003-12-16

The United Nations drug and crime office (UNODC) has launched a unique law enforcement and police training program to combat human trafficking. The program is aimed at southeastern Europe, but the United Nations hopes it will be a model for similar strategies around the world.

U.N. officials worked with experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to develop two manuals offering guidance to police and special anti-trafficking investigators on how to help victims and how to collect evidence of human trafficking.

One of the manuals is designed to improve the skills of ordinary police officers, who are often the first to encounter victims and perpetrators of human trafficking. The other manual is designed for officers who focus on trafficking full-time.

The U.N. drug office developed the training program for southeastern Europe, but hopes the manuals will be adapted for use in other areas, particularly southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

The training program was discussed this week at a meeting in Vienna of senior government officials from 13 southeastern European countries.

According to the United Nations, the top transit countries for trafficking in human beings are Albania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Ukraine.

The U.N. office says the main countries of origin in the world are Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria and Romania. Destination countries include Greece and Turkey.

The main reason for human trafficking is sexual exploitation and the victims are most likely to be young women and children. But the United Nations says there is also trafficking in men, particularly men from Moldova, who are trafficked to Russia and western Europe to do forced labor.

International human trafficking consultant and former British police officer Paul Holmes says the strategy for southeastern Europe could become a global model.

"Everybody now looks to southeast Europe," said Mr. Holmes. "I know from the work I do in other parts of the globe other regions are starting to say, O.K. now we have a problem how are we going to address it, increasingly people are looking at southeast Europe, not any more to look at the scale of their problem, but to say look at the scale of their response."

Mr. Holmes says the U.N. program should help make the region's police forces better at responding quickly to trans-border crime like human trafficking, but he says the challenge will be to put the advice in the manuals into practice.