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Summary Of The Press Briefing On Combating Human Trafficking In South Eastern Europe

Strategies to curb human trafficking in South Eastern Europe were discussed by a panel of experts at a press briefing, organized by UNIS Vienna, held at the Vienna International Centre today (Tuesday 16 December 2003). The key speakers were Dan Fatuloiu from the National Police of Romania and Coordinator of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) Task Force on trafficking in human beings, Paul Homes, an international consultant and former UK police officer and Kristiina Kangaspunta, Programme Officer in the anti-human trafficking unit of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The event was chaired by the UNODC Spokesman, Kemal Kurspahic.  The briefing was held to coincide with a meeting of senior government officials from 13 countries being held in Vienna from 15-16 December.  Around 30 journalists, representatives of NGOs, permanent missions and others attended the briefing.

Dan Fatuloiu from the Romanian Police outlined the work of the SECI Task Force on trafficking in human beings. It included setting up joint investigations into trafficking rings, sharing best practice, carrying out international operations against trafficking gangs and increasing cooperation between law enforcement agencies of different countries.

Paul Holmes an international consultant, told the briefing about the training manual which he had been involved in developing with the United Nations Development Programme and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).  The manual offers a comprehensive response for law enforcement agencies on investigating human trafficking.  He spoke of the complex nature of trafficking and said investigating it was also a complex affair.  The training manual developed for South Eastern Europe could become a model and set global standards in this field, he said.

The main purpose of trafficking of human beings in South Eastern Europe was for sexual exploitation Ms. Kangaspunta told the briefing.  The South Eastern European countries were mainly a transit area for trafficking but were also the countries of origin of many of the victims and were increasingly becoming destination countries too.  The main group of victims was young women between the ages of 18-24 years.  However she noted an increase in the number of children being trafficked in the region which was also for sexual exploitation as well as begging and petty crime.  She said there was also some trafficking of men mainly for forced labour.

On the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children which will enter into force on 25 December, Ms. Kangaspunta pointed out that while seven countries in South Eastern Europe had ratified the Protocol, only three European Union countries had.

Commenting on UNDP’s work developing the training manual, Ms. Soknan Han Jung, the Resident Representative of UNDP in Romania, said UNDP looked at trafficking not just as a human rights issue but also as a development issue and poverty had been identified as one of the root causes of trafficking.

There were additional comments from other experts in the audience including the Executive Director of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Jonas Widgren, and Ms. Helga Konrad from the Stability Pact Task Force in south Eastern Europe on trafficking in human beings.

In response to a question about the main problems in fighting trafficking in South Eastern Europe, Ms. Kangaspunta said there were great challenges but in this region the response was the most advanced in terms of investigating it and responding to the needs of the victims.  However other issues needed to be considered such as compensation for victims and how to deal with trafficking in children.

Asked about how the training manual developed based on the situation in South Eastern Europe could be used in other parts of the world Paul Holmes said it would need to be adapted to local conditions.  But the basic principles would still be relevant such as treating trafficking in human beings as a human rights issue and having a victim-centred approach.

Asked which other countries and regions would benefit from the training manual Jan Van Dijk, Officer in Charge of the Human Security Branch of UNODC said it would be distributed through UNODC projects around the world such as in Brazil, Colombia, West Africa, the Philippines and Vietnam.

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