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[ 14. Feb 2008 ]

Governments Failing to Protect the Rights of Trafficked Persons

International Press Conference on Human Trafficking by GAATW in co-operation with LEFÖ, Vienna, 12. Feb 2008

Mediarelease from the International Press Conference on Human Trafficking by GAATW in co-operation with LEFÖ on the occasion of the UN.GIFT Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, 13 - 15 February 2008, Vienna.


Vienna, 12 February 2008 - Anti-trafficking organisations today called on governments to recognise the human rights of trafficked persons and guarantee their right to protection and assistance, at a launch of a campaign by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.

The campaign, entitled "Recognise Rights", and launched on the eve of the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, states that human rights protection is being overlooked by policy-makers in favour of a strictly law enforcement approach to human trafficking, and as a result is failing trafficked persons.

"Considering that human trafficking is not a new phenomenon and has been constantly spreading in recent years, we must admit that the traditional methods of control, deterrence and immediate repatriation of victims of trafficking have failed", said Helga Konrad former OSCE Special Representative on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

"The focus on arresting and prosecuting traffickers", said GAATW spokesperson, Eleanor Taylor-Nicholson, "is at the expense of the people who suffer from these crimes." Eleanor pointed in particular to the common practice of making assistance to trafficked persons conditional on them cooperating with law enforcement.

"It is clearly a human rights violation to deny assistance to people who have been severely abused because they are afraid to testify against their traffickers or may not have information the police find interesting. It is also counterproductive."

Pointing to recent research by GAATW, entitled "Collateral Damage: The Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures Around the World", Eleanor said that such policies only make trafficked people more afraid of identifying themselves to authorities.

Other priority issues highlighted in the campaign include the need to provide trafficked persons with access to justice and compensation, and to create more opportunities for work in destination countries so that migration can take place in safety.

Renu Rajbandhari, the chairperson of the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre in Nepal, stated "Most trafficked persons were originally migrants who were traveling to work overseas in order to survive or make basic wages to improve their lives. They were promised genuine work opportunities but found themselves working in conditions of severe exploitation. Trafficking, therefore, cannot be controlled without looking at the right to development of origin countries, and the right in destination countries for all persons, including migrants, to have their basic rights at work respected."

"This happens in all sectors", said Nivedita Prasad from Ban-Ying in Germany, "Authorities on the ground are still looking only at the sex industry, but we have men and women kept in slavery like conditions in factories, restaurants, construction, domestic service and many other worksites, but they are not getting access to adequate assistance because no one is looking for them."

"We should be looking at ensuring good working conditions for all workers so that exploitation of migrants is not tolerated"

GAATW is an alliance of 84 NGOs working in more than 50 countries. The International Secretariat of GAATW is based in Bangkok, Thailand. In September 2007 it released Collateral Damage, an eight-country study into the impact of anti-trafficking initiatives on the rights of trafficked persons and migrant workers.

The campaign, based on this study, will run until 2010 with activities at regional and global levels.

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women
191/41, 6th Floor, Sivalai Condominium, Moobaan Sivalai, Itsaraphap Road, Soi 33, Bangkokyai, Bangkok 10600 Thailand
(P.O.Box 36 Bangkoknoi Post Office, Bangkok 10700 Thailand)
Tel. 662-864-1427/8 Fax.662-864-1637
E-mail: gaatw (at)

LEFÖ Beratung, Bildung und Begleitung für Migrantinnen
Kettenbrückengasse 15/4, 1050-Wien
Tel.: 0043-1-5811881 Fax: 0043-1-5811882,
E-mail: office (at)

Photo: International Press Conference on Human Trafficking by GAATW in co-operation with LEFÖ, Vienna, 12. Feb 2008. On the podium: Eleanor Taylor-Nicholson, Dr Renu Rajbahandari, Evelyn Probst, Dr Helga Konrad