The ‘Collateral Damage’ caused by anti-trafficking measures is not inevitable. They can be addressed with targeted policy changes:
1. Use an evidence-based approach when adopting anti-trafficking measures and ensure that measures taken are appropriate and proportionate to the patterns of abuse that are occurring.
2. Put greater focus on ending forced labour and slavery-like practices, rather than focusing primarily on the recruitment of individuals into such forms of abuse.
3. Prioritise evidence collected from trafficked persons and other migrants who have experienced abuse when designing policies. Make such people, who know the realities experienced by those migrating, partners in the search for solutions.
4. End the practice of making assistance to trafficked persons conditional on their agreeing to cooperate with law enforcement officials.
5. Monitor how rights to stay in a country are being implemented by law enforcement and immigration authorities. Take remedial action when trafficked persons are systematically not being identified or are classified so that they can be deported. Ensure that all victims of abuse have access to assistance.
6. End the practice of detaining trafficked persons, whether by law enforcement officials, non-government actors or social welfare authorities.
7. Systematically inform trafficked persons of their legal rights, including to legal representation, to compensation and to apply for asylum. Governments should remove any obstacles to these applications being made.
8. Prior to repatriating trafficked persons, ensure that risk and security assessments are carried out for each individual and hold governments accountable for this.
9. Inform trafficked persons in destination countries about their options for assistance in their home country and coordinate assistance between countries where possible.
10. National Human Rights Institutions and other bodies charged with monitoring human rights should be collecting information about the impact of anti-trafficking measures and recommend ways for reducing harmful effects.
11. Allow migrant workers to enjoy their rights to freedom of association and to join and form trade unions. Ensure that migrant workers can complain of exploitation without fear of reprisals. Labour rights defenders should play more role in identifying forced labour cases and helping the victims to seek redress.
Trafficking is a human story that emerges as more and more people seek to leave their home for new opportunities and are taken advantage of in the process. As individuals who have suffered severe human rights violations such as slavery, deprivation of liberty, rape, assault, fraud and other related crimes, trafficked persons must be protected and given full respect for their human rights by all governments.
Despite widespread efforts to address and prevent human trafficking, the rights of migrant and trafficked women are still being violated. In fact, many anti-trafficking policies have led to negative consequences for the very people they are intended to help.
GAATW began the Recognise Rights campaign in 2008 to advocate for the protection and recognition of the rights of trafficked and migrant women. This is done through advocacy and awareness raising at international, national and local levels to highlight 11 recommendations that call for specific policy change that will help to build a stronger human rights-based approach to trafficking.
In September 2007, GAATW released a report entitled Collateral Damage: the Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures on Human Rights Around the World. The Report, an in-depth study of eight countries, showed that all the countries had made significant efforts to stop or reduce human trafficking. These included passing legislation, the formation of specialist police and prosecutorial units, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on anti-trafficking measures. Despite these measures to prevent trafficking in persons, the findings showed that anti-trafficking efforts were not necessarily improving the protection of the rights of trafficked persons, and in some cases lead to even more human rights abuses.
DETENTION IN THE NAME OF TRAFFICKING
1. Trafficked persons, or people suspected of being trafficked are routinely being held in detention without their consent. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina a case was documented in which a brothel was raided and the women were taken to a shelter ‘for their protection’, although they said they had not been trafficked. The authorities took their passports and refused to allow them a chance to collect their possessions before locking them into a closed shelter (they were not permitted to leave). The women refused assistance as trafficked women because they did not feel they had been trafficked, but nevertheless they were detained for two months before the shelter wrote to the authorities that they should be released.
NO ACCESS TO LEGAL JUSTICE
2. In 2007, a seafood factory in Thailand which had been known for several years to have been severely abusing its workers was raided. The NGOs involved were given only half a day to screen 288 workers and decide if they were trafficked, legal or undocumented migrants. Those identified as trafficked were put into a shelter. There was no provision in the anti-trafficking law to assist male victims of trafficking, so those young men were deported. Workers who did not have legal papers were also immediately deported, although they had suffered the same conditions as the others. The employers were not charged with trafficking, but rather sheltering illegal immigrants; they were fined just over $2000 USD and received no jail sentence.
3. The emphasis on prosecuting traffickers means that trafficked men, women and children are not given an opportunity to make other claims for example for unpaid wages or for compensation for pain and suffering – compensation which would allow them to start a new life. In a case in Thailand in 2000, a brothel was raided and all women over 18 were taken to a police cell where they received no information or support. Those guessed to be under-18 were put into a closed shelter and not permitted to leave. No case for compensation for lost wages was made and there was no enquiry into working conditions.
Based on this Report, GAATW member organisations decided that the Alliance should seek to follow up the 11 recommendations of the Report. In 2008, the GAATW International Secretariat launched a campaign for a more human-rights based approach to anti-trafficking - it was called Recognise Rights! The objective of Recognise Rights is to increase the protection and recognition of the rights of trafficked and migrant women, through the long-term promotion of, and advocacy on the recommendations.Click here to see the 11 recommendations.
Throughout 2008, Recognise Rights focused on increasing awareness about the findings and recommendations highlighted in Collateral Damage among member organisations and allies, as well as at international, regional and national meetings and conferences. Key events include the campaign launch at the UN.GIFT conference in Austria, the ‘First’ Latin American and Caribbean Congress on Trafficking in Argentina, the Freedom Network Conference in the USA, the World Social Forum on Migration in Spain, and during the civil society events of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in the Philippines. These activities have lead to an increase in dialogue on the negative impacts of anti-trafficking policy at many levels.
In 2009, GAATW-IS aims to increase advocacy and activities to continue our advocacy and awareness raising on these recommendations. Projects for 2009 include:
- Focusing on the recommendation for Non-Conditional Assistance, including developing a report on how countries are addressing this issue and identifying recommendations.
- Joining forces with GAATW's advocacy team to lobby for a formal Review Mechanism of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocols (UNTOC), specifically the Human Trafficking Protocol, which is necessary to help assess the impact of anti-trafficking measures and better involve civil society in finding solutions that improve the human rights protection for trafficked and migrant persons.
- Continuing to focus on specific recommendations highlighted by GAATW members and the Collateral Damage report, including ensuring access to justice for trafficked persons and access to compensation, more opportunities for people to migrate for work legally, and protection for all workers (including migrant workers) to organise and join a union to help protect their labour rights.
- Launch the Recognise Rights Art Action - a global action to help visualise the change we want to see regarding the human rights recognition and protection for trafficked and migrant people.
The information and publications listed below are resources to help you better understand the need for better human rights protection for trafficked and migrant women, and why we need to take action. Click on the links below to access these materials.
Collateral Damage advocacy booklet English / Spanish
Collateral Damage report
Recognise the Rights to Assistance advocacy booklet
Recognise Rights postcard
Recognise Rights poster