Last week in New York, the UN launched a fund which will provide legal, humanitarian and financial aid to victims of human trafficking.
Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon summed up the plight faced by trafficking victims quite neatly: “Many victims end up stranded, friendless… and may not ask for help because they are isolated or cannot speak the local language. Or they may be seized by fear – fear that they will be treated as criminals even though they have been forced to engage in criminal acts”.
Pledges to the Trust Fund have already been made by the governments of Luxembourg, Thailand, Egypt and Qatar.
The UN was injected with a rare shot of glamour by the presence of Hollywood stars turned human rights activists Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher at the launch event.
In global trafficking fashion news, Ashton managed to pull off the “yes, I may be a comedy actor, but I’m here to make a serious point” look, by donning a very solemn-looking tweed jacket.
It’s a point that’s been made a thousand times before, but since human trafficking networks know no borders, our response to the issue requires global cooperation. David Cameron was on a two-day visit to Beijing last week and, encouragingly, trafficking was on his agenda.
The tragic death of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004 brought to the public’s attention the trafficking of people from China to Britain. A huge proportion of women and girls who are trafficked into the British sex industry come from China.
So the British and Chinese government’s commitment to work together and share information on trafficking operations is certainly welcome. Does this actually mean anything in real terms? Well, regular meetings between the police forces of the two countries are planned in an effort to identify the key figures behind the trade.
Anyone fortunate enough to have worked, visited, lived or travelled in Africa will know the god-like status bestowed upon the continent’s star football players (or ‘soccer’ players for our American friends). There are countless romantic tales of how the likes of Didier Drogbha and Michael Essien ascended from playing on the dirt pitches of rural West Africa to the hollowed turf of the English Premier League.
It’s a dream that’s shared by aspiring young footballers across the continent, but sadly it’s one which leaves them vulnerable to people traffickers. Money may be extracted from the already desperately poor parents of the most talented young players by the promise of a trial or ‘training academy’ at one of the big European clubs. Inevitably, many will end up being forced to beg or work – as the dream of footballing stardom evaporates.
FIFA – the world’s football governing body – has introduced a ‘Transfer Matching System’ which aims to combat the child trafficking industry built around professional football. Although this is a huge step forward in preventing trafficking ‘within’ the football system, aspiring African players who aren’t members of a registered FIFA club are still susceptible to traffickers with empty promises.
Impoverished, living in the slums of Moscow or Istanbul, the offer of a life-changing sum of money for only a few hours ‘work’ might seem like a tempting deal.
The catch? That those few hours involve travelling to Kosovo to have one of your kidneys removed for sale on the black market.
Still interested? Then there’s the other little caveat – that you probably won’t ever receive any of that life-changing sum of money you were promised.
Suddenly that deal sounds less like a route out of poverty and more like a trafficking operation for the purposes of organ harvest.