Greater efforts needed to protect the human trafficking victims struggling to access their rights, OSCE leaders say
Protecting the human rights of trafficking victims must be placed at the heart of all responses to this global crime that particularly targets women and girls, who are even more at risk in situations of armed conflict, OSCE leaders said at the opening of a two-day conference today.
Almost 300 participants from OSCE states, civil society, international organizations and national human rights institutions across the OSCE region registered for the meeting in Vienna, which will provide a forum to discuss the rights of human trafficking victims both in peacetime and during armed conflict.
“The unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine has shaken the foundations of international and European security, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths and enormous suffering to the civilian population,” said Ambassador Adam Hałaciński, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OSCE, on behalf of the Polish 2022 OSCE Chairmanship. “It has also caused Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. The refugee and humanitarian crisis has the potential to turn into a trafficking one, as many experts predict.”
According to UN figures, approximately 40 percent of all global human trafficking cases take place within the OSCE region. The risk of becoming a victim grows during armed conflict, when traffickers are able to plausibly offer rescue and safety or assistance, but in fact with the intention of trafficking them for exploitation. The reach of traffickers has also expanded together with the internet, and the online world offers traffickers anonymity and immediate, global access to individuals and groups with specific profiles. At the same time, new technologies also bring advantages for monitoring and combating trafficking.
Children are especially at risk of becoming victims of trafficking, and the trauma can remain with them far into adulthood. The protection needs of child trafficking victims are significantly different from those of adults, and a dedicated session will therefore focus on child victims of trafficking and ways in which to improve and strengthen child protection systems.
This year ODIHR launched the second edition of a handbook on establishing and strengthening national referral mechanisms to assist OSCE countries in improving their efforts to combat trafficking and support victims. These mechanisms are national frameworks that enable governments to coordinate their efforts to protect and promote the human rights of trafficking victims in strategic partnership with civil society, the private sector, victims, and others working in the field.
“Victims of human trafficking are ripped away from their homes and out of their societies, affecting all those involved for the rest of their lives,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “There are now also new threats that have made individuals and groups already at risk of trafficking even more vulnerable. ODIHR will continue its work with countries across the OSCE to strengthen national frameworks and partnerships with civil society in order to combat human trafficking, and at the same time ensure the voices of victims are heard and their human rights respected.”
Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings are a platform for the OSCE’s participating States and OSCE institutions, as well as international organizations and civil society, to exchange views and good practices to find common solutions for the challenges facing the OSCE region. Today’s discussion is the final SHDM of 2022 and follows meetings dedicated to international cooperation to address violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and the importance of democratic institutions in times of crisis.