Breaking down some of the myths surrounding human trafficking

Derribando algunos de los mitos alrededor de la trata de personas

On July 30, we commemorate the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, a crime which has caught more than 40 million people worldwide in exploitation situations.

Despite being a recognized crime around the world, there are many myths that surround its reality. To better understand what human trafficking is, we will share some of the most common claims about this crime, and review one by one whether they are true or not.

- Victims of human trafficking are always physically bound, chained or locked up.
FALSE: It is more common for trafficked persons to be trapped by psychological coercion and other forms of control than by physical ties, and these circumstances are orchestrated by traffickers. The confiscation of identity documents, the latent or explicit threat of hurting their loved ones, and lack of knowledge about another language and culture are some of the many situations that make it difficult for a trafficked person to escape or seek help.
- The most common purpose of human trafficking is sexual exploitation.
FALSE: Specialists estimate that more people are trafficked for labor exploitation than for sexual exploitation, and that the former affects almost all industries in some aspect. This includes the areas of manufacturing, fishing, agriculture, construction, entertainment and domestic work.
- The youngest children are those who are most often forced to beg.
TRUE: Children forced to beg are often under 10 years old. Traffickers know that younger people gain more sympathy from passersby and that is why they exploit them. Sometimes babies and young infants are rented by their parents or guardians during the day.
- People in poverty are more vulnerable to human trafficking.
TRUE: Although trafficking in persons involves victims with different levels of income and education, ethnicity, nationality, sex, etc., poverty can make people more vulnerable to trafficking. Other situations that place people in situations of greater vulnerability are climate change, natural disasters, war, discrimination, corruption, being a minor and having disabilities.
- Human trafficking can occur both at a national and international level.
TRUE: The crime of trafficking in persons can occur both within a country and outside it, and in many cases there are known networks of trafficking in persons operating at both levels (national and international).
- If you pay someone to help you cross a border illegally, that is human trafficking.
FALSE: Paying someone to facilitate the illegal crossing of the border without going through official routes with a passport and other documents deemed necessary, or avoiding controls, is illegal smuggling of migrants. Since the smuggling of migrants implies the crossing of borders facilitated by a third party, it is an administrative crime against the State.

Smuggling may become trafficking in persons if the migrant is then forced into exploitation, but if the person is free once he or she reaches their destination, it is smuggling and not trafficking.

- Human trafficking is one of the most lucrative businesses.
TRUE: It is estimated that human trafficking generates profits of more than US $150 billion annually, making it one of the most lucrative criminal activities.

Human trafficking may seem like a distant situation over which we do not have much influence as individuals, but there are several actions we can do to increase knowledge about this crime: talk with family and friends about the issue, report local authorities if you suspect of a trafficking case, and supporting companies that ensure decent working conditions for their workers. All these actions allow an increase in citizen oversight on trafficking.

To make a report about trafficking in persons in the region, contact the following telephone numbers:

• Belize: 911

• Costa Rica: 911

• El Salvador: (+503) 2298 6804

• Guatemala: 110

• Honduras: 911

• Jamaica: 967-1389 / 922-3771

• Mexico: (+01) 800 832 4745

• Nicaragua: 133

• Panama: 311/104 / 507-3200

• Dominican Republic: 700

• Trinidad and Tobago: 800-4288 (4CTU)

Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction

Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction
Autor: Guest Contributor

Disasters due to natural hazards exact a heavy toll on the well-being and safety of persons, communities and countries. These disasters tend to be exacerbated by climate change, and are increasing in frequency and intensity, significantly impeding progress towards sustainable development, especially for most exposed countries.

It is critical to anticipate, plan for and reduce disaster risk to more effectively protect persons, communities and countries, their livelihoods, health, cultural heritage, socioeconomic assets and ecosystems, and thus strengthen their resilience.

According to a recent IOM study on human mobility and the climate agenda in the Americas, countries in the region have advanced in the integration of human mobility in national and regional policies and plans for disaster risk reduction, as well as in other related areas such as climate change, development planning, agricultural policy and housing.

However, in many cases the most vulnerable populations are excluded from contributing to disaster risk management policies and plans, thus suffering more disproportionately when disasters strike.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which sets a series of guiding principles for States and other stakeholders in disaster risk reduction, stresses the importance of inclusive disaster risk management: “There has to be a broader and a more people-centered preventive approach to disaster risk. Disaster risk reduction practices need to be multi-hazard and multisectoral, inclusive and accessible in order to be efficient and effective.”

While Governments have a leading and regulatory role to play, they should engage with different groups including women, youth, persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples and other communities in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards.

The framework notes the following opportunities:

  • Migrants contribute to the resilience of communities and societies, and their knowledge, skills and capacities can be useful in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction;
  • Persons with disabilities and their organizations are critical in the assessment of disaster risk and in designing and implementing plans tailored to specific requirements, taking into consideration the principles of universal design;
  • Children and youth are agents of change and should be given the space to contribute to disaster risk reduction
  • Women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing and implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes; and adequate capacity building measures need to be taken to empower women for preparedness as well as to build their capacity to secure alternate means of livelihood in post-disaster situations;
  • Indigenous peoples, through their experience and traditional knowledge, provide an important contribution to the development and implementation of plans and mechanisms, including for early warning;
  • Older persons have years of knowledge, skills and wisdom, which are invaluable assets to reduce disaster risk, and they should be included in the design of policies, plans and mechanisms, including for early warning.

The inclusion of migrants and other communities can also contribute towards strengthening local capacities, advance an integrated agenda, strengthen local networks and expand the governance base of migration and climate change.

To turn these words into action, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) developed a companion for implementing the Sendai Framework Target, offering practical guidance to help Government authorities integrate disaster displacement and other related forms of human mobility into disaster risk reduction strategies at local and regional levels.

Similarly, The Migrants In Countries In Crisis Initiative (MICIC), developed a series of Principles, Guidelines, and Practices to strengthen local, national, regional, and international action to better protect migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters. The Guidelines provide recommendations on how migration can contribute to resilience, recovery, and the well-being of affected communities and societies. These include practices for implementation, such as migrant-to-migrant learning, regional and cross-border contingency plans, and crisis alert systems. 

While public and private sectors, civil society organizations, academia and scientific and research institutions, communities and businesses can all work more closely together to create opportunities for collaboration, the rights of vulnerable groups should always be contemplated as part of holistic strategies for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.