ISLAMABAD, MAR 25 /DNA/ – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), with the support of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) organized a high-level Public-Private Partnership Conference to prevent Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants. UNODC and FIA have been collaborating for over three decades to curb trafficking in persons.
The Conference provided a platform to the relevant stakeholders of public and private sectors to hold extensive discussions on the issues related to trafficking in persons (TIP), and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM). Participants with multidisciplinary backgrounds had an opportunity to interact with each other and deliberate on various aspects of the subject. Detailed presentations from experts highlighted multifaceted issues related to Trafficking in Persons, the implications of enacted laws, and the importance of collaboration between various stakeholders to eliminate these crimes.
Dr. Jeremy Milsom, Representative UNODC Country Office Pakistan, in his welcome remarks stated, “Due to the multifaceted nature of human trafficking and migrants smuggling, and its close connections with other transnational issues, no country is capable of combating this transnational threat on its own”. According to the UN Trafficking Protocol, “ Trafficking involves the movement of people through deceptive, coercive, or abusive means for exploitation”. This threat, therefore, requires a coordinated and meaningful response at all levels: local, regional, and international.
Dr. Milsom further said, “ Human trafficking and smuggling of migrants are also issues of economic and social development”. However, these crimes are not characteristic of a fragile or poor country, they are faced by nearly 100 countries worldwide, irrespective of the size of their economies. It should be noted that Pakistan already has a law on TIP and SOM, which allows it to meet its international obligations under the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention, signed by Pakistan in 2010. There is a need to see the implementation of these existing national and international frameworks. In reagrds to human trafficking, he emphasized, there is a need to go beyond working with the ‘usual’ stakeholders (law enforcement agencies and specialized NGOs) such as labor inspectors, trade unions, employers’ associations, media, academia, and the private sector.”
Delivering the key note address, Additional Inspector General of Police and national expert on oganized crime, Dr. Ehsan Sadiq expressed a strong commitment on part of the Government of Pakistan “to undertake all possible initiatives and steps for the elimination of trafficking in person and smuggling of migrants.” This commitment is reflected in the enactment of two separate laws on human trafficking and migrant smuggling, in line with the UN Protocols on the Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants Protocols. Dr. Sadiq also highlighted the contribution of the FIA, the government’s lead agency, in drafting and implementing new laws. As a result of FIA’s persistent efforts, the Rules in support of the 2018 TIP & SOM Act were approved by the Cabinet in January 2021. FIA also developed the five-year National Action Plan to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling (2021-2025). Dr. Sadiq further informed that to implement the provisions of new laws relating to victim services and to promote Public-Private Partnership to prevent Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants, FIA has signed MoUs with NGOs working in these areas. As a result of these multidimensional efforts, there has been significant improvement in Pakistan’s legal framework and coordination mechanisms.
Presenting an overview of national statistics on Trafficking in Persons relating to enforcement and referral by the provincial police, Dr. Sadiq informed that the Provincial police reported that 32,022 people became victims of trafficking in 2020, including 15,255 women, 9,581 men, 6,937 children, and 249 transgender victims. Only 30 bonded labor victims were identified in 2020, a significant decrease from 760 in 2019. Over the years, the provincial police referred 11,803 trafficking victims to the government or NGOs for care, including 3,744 men.
The Canadian High Commissioner, Wendy Gilmour spoke to Canada’s support for the conference which she highlighted provides a valuable opportunity where public and private sectors can join efforts and collaborate in innovative ways. She expressed the Government of Canada’s continued commitment to partner with UNODC and the Government of Pakistan in these efforts. She commended officials for implementing the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants (2021-2025) with the establishment of the Anti-Human Trafficking coordination committees. She was hopeful that enhanced cooperation between private and public sector and civil society will reduce human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and increase protection and services to vulnerable populations.
Honourable Provincial Minister for Women Development Syeda Shehla Raza in her remarks said, that, “I strongly believe to help support and promote economic empowerment of the population at risk of trafficking particularly women and children.”
While appreciating the continued efforts of UNODC and FIA, Ms. Afshan Tehseen, Chairperson of National Commission on the Rights of Children, emphasized, “Trafficking in Persons and Migrant Smuggling can only be addressed when all the stakeholders join hands anddevelop an effective communication, coordination, and referral mechanism. Vulnerable segments of society, particularly women and children, should be made the focus of prevention strategies and response mechanisms. The government should give it more importance by ensuring that the concerned agencies particularly FIA and police have sufficient financial and technical resources to deal with the threat. In addition, there is a need for an effective monitoring and oversight structure to be put in place for better management of the concerned issue”.
More than 70 delegates attended this conference, including senior government officials, law enforcement officers, leading civil society organizations, heads of the corporate/private sector organizations, NGOs, INGOs, the media, academia including universities, UN agencies, and others. Under the recent UNODC initiatives, this is the third conference held as part of the countrywide outreach plan.This was made possible with the kind support of Canada.
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