South Asia: UNODC initiates regional cooperation projects to address human trafficking across borders
A $32 billion business annually, human trafficking robs young men, women and children of their human rights and a life of dignity. Lack of awareness, paucity of work opportunities, compounded by poverty can make the youth vulnerable to trafficking. In South Asia, trafficking in persons takes place both within the region and internationally. Young girls and boys from Bangladesh and Nepal are being trafficked into India for sexual exploitation, forced labor and domestic servitude. Young men from Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been sold to countries in the Middle East as forced labor. Within India, there have been a growing number of reports of children and girls from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal being sold into the megacities of New Delhi and Mumbai.
Open and porous borders within the region have eased trade, but they also pose a challenge for border guards and immigration officers in detecting, identifying and reporting incidents of human trafficking. When victims of cross-border human trafficking are detected, it is critical to have efficient and timely mechanisms of information sharing between countries, so that victims can be rescued and traffickers arrested immediately.
Cross-border human trafficking brings with it the additional challenge of how to repatriate the victims. On numerous occasions, victims are rescued, but due to lengthy legal and bureaucratic procedures it can take years for the victim to be repatriated to their home country.
In response to these critical challenges in the region, UNODC launched two anti-human trafficking initiatives with a regional focus. The first initiative titled: Strengthening service provisions for protection and assistance to victims of cross-border trafficking between Bangladesh, India and Nepal aims at strengthening collaboration between the three countries, to develop suitable institutional frameworks such as a Regional Referral Mechanism and a SOP for repatriation of trafficking survivors.
The second initiative titled: Preventing Trafficking of women and girls in South Asia forms part of a larger ILO programme titled Work in Freedom. The Work in Freedom project looks at the empowerment of migrant workers and girls, adoption of ethical practices by recruitment agencies, improved workplace practices and support services to protect women workers and girls. The UNODC- led component of this project aims at increasing cooperation and strengthening capacities of law enforcement, immigration and labour officers in Bangladesh and India to detect, investigate and prosecute human trafficking for forced domestic work.
At the first Project Steering Committee held for both projects in June in New Delhi, Government Representatives from Bangladesh, India and Nepal underscored the need for effective cross-border collaboration, underlining their commitment to work together with all stakeholders in these two new projects in the prevention, rescue and repatriation of victims of human trafficking, as well as in the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers.
Click on the following to know more about the initiatives:
The regional initiative ' Strengthening service provisions for protection and assistance to victims of cross-border trafficking between Bangladesh, India and Nepal' is financially supported by the US Government.
The regional initiative 'Preventing Trafficking of women and girls in South Asia' is funded by the International Labour Organization through the Department for International Development, UK