HUMAN TRAFFICKING: THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT

The rate of crime and human ills has greatly increased over the years. Theft, rape, assault, kidnapping (another form of human trafficking) and human trafficking have become the order of the day in recent times. People do not have regard for the lives of fellow humans anymore; regard, first, to the victims and secondly, to the people that are related to the victims. The relations to the victims of these crimes become emotionally battered and destabilized as a result of losing their loved ones to these ills. Some even lose their lives to suicide because they cannot bear the thought of losing that loved one. Governments have tried to curb this excess rate of crime with punitive measures but the crime rate is still on the increase. Can there be a crime-free society?

One may tend to think that human trafficking and kidnapping mean one and the same thing. They both involve abduction but there is a slight difference between the two. Human trafficking involves an abducted person being forced to do something against their will that benefits the captor. Human trafficking by definition is the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Article 3(a-d) of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines (2000) define Human Trafficking as:

For the purposes of this Protocol:
a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;
c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article;
d) “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.
Kidnapping on the other hand, from the legal point of view is the unlawful taking away or transportation of a person against that person’s will, usually to hold the person unlawfully. The difference between Trafficking and kidnapping is slight. As the word goes, ‘Trafficking’ focuses on financial ramifications but Kidnapping may or may not involve the motive of finances. One can have several reasons for the kidnap of the victim.

Human trafficking is like the modern way of human slavery. In Biblical days, it was more like a situation where one’s consent is given to be a slave. It was for the sole purpose of provision for the poor. The servants then entered into an arrangement voluntarily in return for the resources to pay off a debt. The servants were at liberty to leave when the debt was fully paid or they could remain as permanently as slaves if they liked their situation.

Going back to the history of slavery, it was a legally recognized system in which people were legally considered the property or chattel of another. A slave had few rights and could be bought or sold and made to work for the owner without any choice or pay. As Drescher (2009) argues, “The most crucial and frequently utilized aspect of the condition is a communally recognized right by some individuals to possess, buy, sell, discipline, transport, liberate or otherwise dispose of the bodies and behavior of other individuals.” In the American colonies and other places, an integral element was frequently the assignment of children of a slave mother to the status of slaves born into slavery. Although, slave trade was abolished in different countries at different times, there were still the illegal practice of it in some countries. Till date, people still practice slavery. It is called human trafficking today.

It is important to note that Human Trafficking is a crime. The definition contained in Article 3 of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol is meant to provide consistency and consensus around the world on the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. Article 5 therefore requires that the conduct set out in Article 3 be criminalized in domestic legislation. Domestic legislation does not need to follow the language of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol exactly but should be adapted in accordance with domestic legal systems to give effect to the concepts contained in the Protocol.
In Nigeria, the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other related Matters (NAPTIP) came into being on the 26th of August, 2003. The Agency which is the creation of Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 is the Federal Government of Nigeria’s response to addressing the scourge of trafficking in persons in Nigeria and its attendant human abuses in its entire ramification. It is also a fulfillment of her international obligation under the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2000) supplementing the year 2000 Transnational Organized Crime Convention (TOC). The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has been described as a foremost crime fighting Agency set up in order to stem the tide of illegal migration and human trafficking in sub-Sahara Africa.

What then is the role of the governments? It is recorded, according to the Human Trafficking Prosecuting Unit (HTPU) of the United States Department of Justice that the US government has successfully prosecuted human trafficking crimes in agricultural fields, sweatshops, suburban mansions, brothels, escort services, bars and ship clubs. In recent times, because of enhanced criminal statutes, victim protection provisions and public awareness programs introduced by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, also with sustained dedication to combating human trafficking, the numbers of trafficking investigations and prosecutions have dramatically increased. This is demonstrated by a 360 percent increase in convictions for the fiscal years 2001-2007 as compared to the previous 7 year period.

In the United States in 2007, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU) was created by the Civil Rights Division within the Criminal Section to consolidate the expertise of some of the nation’s top human trafficking prosecutors. The Department of Justice is deeply committed to combating labor trafficking, assisting its victims and prosecuting its perpetrators. In the past three fiscal years from 2009 to 2011, the Department brought an average of 24 forced labor cases annually, more than doubling the average of 11 cases brought annually over a prior 3-year period from 2006 to 2008.

International laws are in place to fight this crime of human trafficking. Governments have agreed to a UN Protocol supra which provides a working definition of human trafficking and a common basis for criminalizing the trafficking of persons; especially women and children. By May 2007, 111 states had ratified this Trafficking Protocol, committing themselves to incorporate the provisions in their domestic laws and to fully implement its measures. The Protocol provides for specific measures to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute the criminals.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with financial support from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has therefore set in motion a Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). The process formally launched in London on 26 March, 2007 is designed to have a long-term impact, to create a turning point in the world-wide fight against human trafficking. Throughout 2008, events took place across the globe to raise awareness, reduce vulnerability of potential victims, examine the human impact of this crime and take action to stop it. The ultimate aim is to prevent potential victims from falling prey to traffickers, protecting those who do and punishing the criminals involved.

The aim of UN.GIFT is to fight human trafficking by building support for the following goals:
– Raise awareness by informing the world about this crime and mobilize people to stop it.
– Strengthen prevention – warn vulnerable groups and alleviate the factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking, such as poverty, underdevelopment and lack of opportunity.
– Reduce demand – attack the problem at its source by lowering incentives to trade and decreasing demand for the products and services of exploited people.
– Support and protect victims – ensuring housing, counseling, medical, psychological and material assistance, keeping in mind the special needs of women and children and people at risk, such as those in refugee camps and conflict zones.
– Improve law enforcement – strengthen information change between law enforcement agencies on international trafficking routes and traffickers’ profiles in order to dismantle criminal groups, leading to the conviction of traffickers.
[United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime]

Although, slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, human trafficking remains an international problem and an estimated 29.8 million persons are living in illegal slavery today. In recent times, the trading of children has been reported in Nigeria and Benin. During the second Sudanese civil war, people were taken into slavery. In Mauritania, it is estimated that up to 600,000 men, women and children or 20% of the population are currently enslaved, many of them used as bonded labor. Slavery in Mauritania was criminalized in August 2007.
Although, governments of the world have made efforts to bring this crime to an end by complying with the UN and implementing various laws on human trafficking in their countries, I believe more can be done in terms of vigilance and security.

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General stated that he applauds the UN-led Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking – also known as UN.GIFT – that was launched in the UK’s House of Lords and the steps that were being taken by the United Kingdom to stop this crime. He further stated that we should take action to prevent any more victims from having their dreams of a better future turn into nightmares of exploitation and servitude.

The role of Governments in the fight against human trafficking cannot be over emphasized. Their roles begin first of all, from enacting laws that would effectively combat this menace. Secondly, governments have a role in vigorously arresting, investigating and prosecuting human traffickers using the laws enacted to fight this evil. Thirdly, the governments must also aggressively inform the general public especially vulnerable people about the risk of human trafficking. This can be done in conjunction with NGO’s by using the media, going to both secondary and tertiary institutions and also using religious leaders as arrow heads in the fight against human trafficking. Ultimately, governments around the world using their institutions and resources available to them are key to eliminating the scourge and menace of human trafficking.

Margaret Deinere Okoh