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Migrants at the mercy of human traf

Subject: Migrants at the mercy of human traffickers 

                                        November 7, 1998 

 Migrants at the
 mercy of human

 Global economic woes compound situation

 Anjira Assavanonda

 The current economic crisis coupled with the suppression of illegal
 workers have aggravated the vulnerable situation of migrants,
 particularly women, caught in the human trafficking racket in the
 Asia-Pacific region, a report claimed.

 A paper prepared by the International Organisation for Migration,
 presented at the Regional Conference on Trafficking in Women
 organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for
 Asia and the Pacific, said the problem of trafficking in women will
 worsen due to changes in the economic and social environment in the

 In his presentation, IOM representative Anders Knudsen said the
 current crisis has forced the lives of illegal migrants further

 In a response to economic problems, many of the receiving countries
 in the region have imposed stricter measures against illegally employed
 foreign workers.

 The possibilities of obtaining work permits have also decreased

 However, it was noted that considerable demand for foreign labour
 still exists.

 Due to the economic downturn, many private companies have been
 forced to cut costs to survive.

 One option being applied is a reduction in salaries by employing cheap
 foreign and irregular labour.

 With big supply and strong demand in the labour market, measures
 aimed at limiting migration failed to reduce the presence of foreign

 Mr Knudsen said illegal cross-border migration has created a market
 for services, such as the provision of forged travel documents,
 transportation, guided border crossings, accommodation and job

 The smuggling of illegal aliens is said to be a very profitable business,
 he said.

 "Before the downturn many could migrate freely and by their own
 means, but now with stricter enforcement many have turned to
 services offered by traffickers to reach their goal," he said.

 A larger number of migrants are now depending on the protection of
 employers in order not to be arrested and deported.

 Such dependence on employers often leaves migrants at risk of abuse,
 exploitation, humiliation, and violence from employers and corrupt

 However, although migrants, particularly women, are often abused,
 they rarely enjoy any legal rights in the receiving countries. If they
 complain to the police, they are simply arrested, charged with illegal
 entry and deported.

 Trafficking is part of a migration problem, and trafficking in women is
 particularly disturbing as female migrants are more vulnerable than

 Mr Knudsen said the problems facing female migrants have been
 combined by several factors, including violation of basic human rights
 in the form of extortion, debt bondage, and sexual exploitation.

 Illegal migrants also do not have access to public health care and their
 children do not have access to public education.

 To solve the problem, he said that governments, inter-governmental
 and non-governmental organisations must work together to address
 the root causes such as poverty, lack of opportunities, scarce
 resources, low status of women in society and political and economic
 instability which drive irregular migration as a whole.

 The IOM has focussed on two stages in the trafficking process. The
 first is through prevention before victimisation occurs, by providing
 potential victims with information about trafficking so that they will be
 in a better position to make an informed decision.

 The second concentrates on direct assistance and support to the
 victims of trafficking.

 The IOM also emphasised a new range of activities for international
 organisations, governments and NGOs such as adoption of policies
 and legislation to penalise traffickers, established systems to distinguish
 between "normal" irregular migrants and victims of trafficking and legal
 and medical assistance for victims of trafficking.



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 Last Modified: Sat, Nov 7, 1998
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