UNITED NATIONS – Human trafficking is likely to escalate because the global economic crisis has fueled its major causes — poverty, youth unemployment, gender inequality and the demand for cheap labor, the U.N. investigator on trafficking said Thursday.
In a report to the General Assembly, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo expressed concern that trafficking "continues to thrive" because these root causes are not being sufficiently addressed and "potential victims become more desperate to escape their unfavorable situations."
Ezeilo, a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria who was appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council job in August 2008, also expressed concern that trafficking victims are sometimes deported "without a sufficient period for recovery and reflection."
People who are trafficked should not be detained, charged, prosecuted or summarily deported, she stressed.
"Often, victims of trafficking ... have suffered severe trauma of a physical, sexual or psychological nature and require an enabling environment and the specialized services provided by trained personnel to trust, feel safe to talk about their victimization to, and assist law enforcement officials," Ezeilo said.
She expressed concern that governments are not paying adequate attention to the identification of women, children and men trafficked for sexual exploitation and cheap labor, and to measures to protect and assist them.
Only 24 of 86 countries that responded to a questionnaire she sent in 2008 indicated that those issues were a priority in the fight against human trafficking.
Overall, Ezeilo said, less than 30 percent of trafficking cases — both internally and across borders — are reported to officials.
"Trafficking for purposes of labor exploitation is likely to escalate, particularly during the current global economic crisis and in the light of increasing poverty caused by massive unemployment and the tendencies of employers to use cheap labor in order to cut costs and maximize profits," Ezeilo said.
Ezeilo reported on visits to Belarus, Poland and Japan and said each country needs to do more to identify and help victims.
She said the scale of human trafficking in Poland has been aggravated since it joined the European Union, with the country becoming both a transit and destination country for labor exploitation, prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation.
Japan remains a destination country for many victims of human trafficking, the vast majority for prostitution, Ezeilo said.
While the Japanese government has been working on legislative and administration reforms to address the problem, it still does not have adequate procedures to identify victims or shelters to house them.
She commended Belarus for its practice of compensating trafficking victims and establishing a training center on human trafficking and migration. But she said the country needs to improve assistance to victims and address the root causes of trafficking.