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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
First of all, my delegation would like to thank the President of the General Assembly for convening a special debate on the issue of trafficking in persons. I also want to thank the panelists for their expert perspectives that have provoked deeper thought on how to cooperate more effectively to combat trafficking.
Trafficking may be a transnational crime, but it is foremost a violation of human rights
Although there has been much effort to address the various dimensions of problem of trafficking in persons, we are concerned that a great deal of the responses has largely tackled trafficking merely from a criminal or border security perspective. This narrow approach has resulted in victims of trafficking suffering doubly when they are detained, charged or prosecuted for being involved in a situation of crime, or more commonly, for illegally entering the countries of transit or destination. Increasingly, the response that many authorities employ is to deport the victim of trafficking. Why? This because, as expounded by Ms. Ndiaye and Ms. Gupta from our panel, there is a propensity for victims of trafficking to be generally penalized for immigration violations. Because many trafficking victims fear being deported, either because of criminal stigma and possible shame in their home communities, or because of more dismal economic conditions at home, or worse, because they are afraid of the retribution they will suffer from traffickers and their local networks back home, many trafficked persons would rather remain silent and not report their situation and the exploiters to the authorities. This thereby pushes the crime of trafficking more deeply hidden than ever. Nothing could perhaps be more alarming than a situation wherein victims’ silence is unwittingly encouraged by flawed or inadequate government policies.
Also sometimes, a permit to stay is granted to a victim only if the victim cooperates in the fight against trafficking. This is a serious concern because it makes a trafficked person’s access to protection and assistance conditional on the agreement to testify against suspected traffickers. As earlier mentioned, many victims are too afraid to do so for reasons of shame, stigma and retribution against them or their families back home.
The lack of a significant human rights orientation in policy formulation and in the training and work of the law enforcers, border and judicial officials, can therefore “add insult to injury”, exacerbating the pernicious effects of trafficking. Not only does it not solve the problem and aggravate the exploitative situation in which the trafficked persons find themselves, but it can also dangerously undermine progress by laying the environment for re-trafficking and perpetuating the vicious cycle.
Mr. Chairman, we must highlight that a human rights orientation in the effort against trafficking must necessarily be gender-sensitive. With the overwhelming majority of victims being female, it cannot be denied that unequal gender relations play in the various aspects of the problem. It is therefore necessary to integrate gender concerns into all policies and mechanisms to address trafficking. However, we need to be careful that these gender-sensitive measures do not reinforce inequalities experienced by women, for instance, in the case wherein women are banned or restricted from traveling or are placed under some control under the pretext of protecting them.
Finally, on the issue of cooperation, while we have the international normative framework comprising of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and in particular, its Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Girls, and of the other human rights instruments, we also need to forge more bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements that operationalize the work on the ground. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation, involving Member States, civil society and the private sector, should facilitate the sharing of technical, legal and financial assistance to build and enhance capacities for prevention, protection and prosecution. It should also reinforce the protection of the rights and dignity of trafficked persons, as well as promote their welfare. Cooperative arrangements can be in the form of labor migration agreements that include provision for minimum work standards and model contracts, in line with international labor standards; or provisions for the conduct of joint investigations by law enforcement authorities and sharing of information between them, including in tracing the modus operandi of traffickers who have become more sophisticated and freezing assets related to trafficking; or provisions for mutual legal assistance; ensuring judicial cooperation in the interviewing of witnesses, obtaining and preserving evidence in order to aid in the prosecution of traffickers; as well as mutual assistance in relation to post-traumatic recovery, repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked persons.
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