Trafficking: understanding the context (1/3)

Images during the missions in Ghana, Thailand, Timor-Leste
Different moments during the MIEUX missions, April 2018

As the international community comes together around common goals for inclusive and sustainable development, the specific targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5.2, 8.7 and 16 mandate governments to redouble efforts to address the human rights violation of trafficking in human beings (THB). During the last week of April, on the occasion of three simultaneous missions as part of MIEUX Actions in Ghana, Timor-Leste and Thailand, we are taking an in-depth look at how MIEUX and ICMPD are supporting governments around the world to combat trafficking. 

The three countries named above are all prioritising improving the capacities of their institutions to better respond to very specific needs related to anti-trafficking. While all three countries have ratified the relevant international and regional legislative frameworks and produced national policies and Action Plans to counter this phenomenon, they all benefit from more support to carry forward the commitments expressed in these policies.

Strong institutions are the basis for the effective implementation of legislation and policy. This is where the presence of a peer-to-peer capacity-building facility like MIEUX can prove useful. By providing a demand-driven and targeted response to the needs of each partner country, MIEUX has acquired in-depth experience in designing Actions on the subject of THB. To date, 28 out of 139 MIEUX Actions have tackled THB through the development of handbooks, training materials and policies; communication campaigns; and training of officers and staff in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and the EU Neighbourhood. Notably, Asia has been the region where the most Actions on this topic have been carried out, as explained in the MIEUX Asia Regional Factsheet.

In the first of this three-part series of articles, we examine the context that each MIEUX activity is taking place against; the trafficking trends, as well as the legal and institutional structures put in place to combat trafficking in each country. Tomorrow’s article will feature details on how MIEUX has approached the design of each Action.

Ghana: labour exploitation and transit point

During the last week of April, MIEUX supported the Ghanaian Immigration Service by facilitating an information exchange workshop on “Detection, Investigation and Referral of THB Victims” in Accra. This workshop is part of an ongoing Action that will provide GIS with a training module on trafficking in human beings deriving from the victim-centred and human rights-based approaches.

Like many Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghana reports trafficking of adults and children for various purposes: in 2016 this included sexual exploitation in prostitution, exploitation through begging, domestic servitude, and labour exploitation in agriculture (on farms and herding), in extractive industries (gold panning and quarries), as well as cases of exploitation in street hawking.

Domestic trafficking of Ghanaians, particularly children, is more commonly identified than cross-border trafficking of Ghanaians and foreign citizens: according to the Ghanaian Police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU), in 2016, 61% of all trafficking cases identified in Ghana were labour-related, while 39% were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Ghana is also a transit point for West Africans subjected to trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation in Europe, especially to Italy and Germany.

As a member of ECOWAS, Ghana is party to its Conventions and participates in the implementation of the ECOWAS Plans of Action on Trafficking, of which the fifth regional plan has just been adopted.  At the international level, Ghana has ratified key legal instruments such as the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Trafficking Protocol.

Thailand: a developed economy with a high number of identified cases of trafficking

During the last week of April, MIEUX supported the Thai Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to gain knowledge on the prevention of trafficking cases and protection of trafficked people by organising a study visit to the Netherlands, as part of an ongoing Action that implements a capacity building programme to support the Government of Thailand in fighting against and protecting victims of THB.

As a middle-income country, Thailand is both a country of origin and destination for large numbers of international migrants. Thailand is a signatory to the key international and regional legal instruments on human trafficking and has signed bilateral agreements with many of its neighbouring countries, as well as developing a sophisticated national legal framework against human trafficking.

In spite of this, the country is a source, destination and transit country for men, women and children subjected to THB for the purpose of labour and sexual exploitation. Many of the factors that influence large-scale migration to and from Thailand have also led to cases of trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation in fishing-related industries, low-end garment production, and factories and domestic work within the country. In turn, Thai nationals have been trafficked to countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the USA, mainly for the purposes of labour exploitation, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.

Timor-Leste: the need for further data

The latest MIEUX activity with Timor-Leste was a study visit to Thailand to learn about ongoing efforts and practices to combat trafficking and conduct complex investigations of cases. This activity is part of an ongoing Action to improve the capacities of Timorese public authorities in applying international standards and good practices in THB cases, in particular during the phases of investigation and case preparation.

With a population of 1.2 million, Timor-Leste is a small state in Southeast Asia and ranks fourth in the list of the youngest countries in the world. As a newcomer to many regional and international forums, Timor-Leste needs support in many areas of migration management.

In regard to combating trafficking, one of the biggest challenges is the limited institutional capacity to investigate potential cases. Furthermore, accurate and detailed data and information is lacking. The few protection services available to actual and potential victims of trafficking are limited to urban areas, and the service providers often lack knowledge and skills.

These three geographically diverse countries, each with a distinct profile of trafficking trends and specific needs of their institutions, benefited from support from MIEUX in enhancing their response to trafficking.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s article where we will take an in-depth look at how these activities were tailored to the needs of each country and what insights the MIEUX team gathered during the experience.

Are you working on anti-trafficking?  Do you find this three-part series interesting? Share, comment and follow the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Why this article?

Ghana, Timor-Leste and Thailand: three countries with very different migration profiles, but all facing challenges when it comes to combatting trafficking in human beings (THB).During the last week of April, MIEUX organised three simultaneous activities part of respective Actions focused on anti-trafficking. To mark the occasion, we are featuring a three-part article showcasing these Actions as examples of what capacity-building activities can achieve in the fight against trafficking.

Find out more

Our work in Central and Western Africa

Our work in Asia

Related links

ICMPD Anti-Trafficking Programme webpage

 Council of Europe Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings webpage