Writes Althea, Content Writer, Headline Diplomat eMagazine, LUDCI.eu
Human trafficking is a particularly gruesome form of migration abuse. It is also the most lucrative form of trafficking in the world. Over 20 million people suffer a fate that they describe as worse than death on a yearly basis in the hands of grim predators. It is sad enough that adults are subject to grotesque forms of indignity in forced labour within and outside their homelands but to think children also suffer the same fate? UNESCO reports that traffickers generate approximately $39 billion annually on the exploitation of children alone. They estimate that about 152 million children are in child labour globally and that one in four victims of modern slavery are children.
The United States has taken heavy diplomatic strides in combating trafficking in persons. Through their Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), they have worked with several countries to combat this menace. They have liaised with several communities to investigate trafficking activities. Of note is a child-pornography trafficking ring they busted in 2017 that had been operating since 2009. They did this in partnership with Costa Rica’s Trafficking in Person’s office. The U.S. also has established Angel Watch which alerts countries that a U.S. citizen convicted of sexual crimes against a minor is traveling there. During the period of investigation, DSS worked with Costa Rican security agencies to achieve a 100 percent reduction in Angel Watch travellers into the country.
DSS is currently working with U.S. and Canadian counterparts to develop a working group in British Columbia to counter human trafficking. Through this partnership, the working group will raise local awareness about human trafficking, increase training to law enforcement and vulnerable private sector industries, expand information sharing, and increase enforcement actions. After the 2019 Sexual Exploitation Training and Awareness Conference (SETA), eleven Canadian law enforcement officials and policymakers travelled to Washington, D.C., New York, and Houston from October 21-30 2019 to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
The U.S. DSS joined Europol in 2016 to combat Trafficking in Person (TIP) and migrants smuggling. DSS signed an agreement with Europol to join two of Europol’s Focal Points (FP). “FP Phoenix targets trafficking in human beings and FP Checkpoint looks at migrant smuggling.” These are but a handful of DSS’s activities to combat human trafficking. The US is deeply involved and supportive of all UN’s efforts to combat trafficking in Persons (TIP).
France is another country that has been involved seriously in combating human trafficking in the international community. Working closely with the UN, “France is working actively to universalize and effectively implement the Additional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC, known as the “Palermo Convention”)”. This Protocol is the only universal legally-binding instrument for combatting human trafficking. In June 2016, France organised an open debate on the link between sexual violence and human trafficking, while she occupied the presidency of the Security Council. In December of the same year, France supported the council to adopt “a historic resolution clearly defining the link between human trafficking, sexual violence, and terrorism as a threat to international peace and security”.
Within the Human Rights Council, France supported the creation of a mandate for Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. France is also party to the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography.
While the U.S. and several countries in the European Union continue to pursue diplomatic solutions to child trafficking, some other countries seem to take a position that encourages this crime. India for instance, is famed the country with the largest trafficking problem. However, on the diplomatic front, there seems to be no activity against this. In fact, “in 2013, India went so far as to retroactively bestow diplomatic status on Devyani Khobragade, a consular official working in New York, to shield her from criminal liability for labour trafficking”. China poses a governance problem against trafficking running the country in a manner that engenders the exploitation of women and children. Cuba is famed for being a centre for sex tourism, a status that exacerbates the exploitation of women and children. Uzbekistan even runs a government-compelled forced labour system. Vietnam, and Thailand among many others seem to also sit idly and let child tormentors conduct their business freely.
While the U.S. has led in the fight against child trafficking, they have also been accused on the diplomatic front as being too permissive. Several diplomats hide under the cover of diplomatic immunity to engage in child trafficking, abuse, and forced labour without so much as a civil charge. This is despite the several acts passed into law under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR). Global convictions of human traffickers dropped drastically between 2014 and 2015 even though the crime was recording astronomical rates of increase.
We are basically seeing a lot of paperwork being done, less enforcement of these acts and laws, and the future of more and more children smothered by cruel predators. It is evident that countries are not doing nearly enough to pressure other countries to address this problem. While global diplomacy has advanced greatly on other matters, it still has a long way to go in addressing the situation of child trafficking. We call on the U.S. and the European Union to do more on the diplomatic front so that countries like India, Bangladesh, Malawi, Nigeria among others address the issue of child exploitation.