Each year, across the Asia-Pacific region hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are being trafficked. Though there are many different forms of trafficking, most involve coercion or deception.
Some victims of trafficking are abducted from their communities or sold to traffickers by family members. However, most are deceived by false promises and offers of fictitious jobs. Those at higher risk come from poor, under-educated, unskilled, debt ridden, or generally socio-economically excluded backgrounds.
Trafficking is widespread in Thailand and the
neighbouring countries of Viet Nam, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan. It is often for
commercial sex but also for other forms of exploitative work — domestic service, plantations, construction sites, sweatshops, or begging.
Trafficking is a dispersed and complex activity. Typically it involves a series of events over an extended period of time and in many different places – from the home to the border to the workplace, some legal and some illegal, often straddling several countries. The response therefore has to be equally wide ranging.
At its heart trafficking thrives because many people, particularly women and children, are disempowered and vulnerable. Countries wanting to combat trafficking will therefore need to address the underlying conditions of poverty and lack of opportunities for decent work. But they will also need to empower women and children, so that they are more aware of the dangers and can protect themselves. At the same time they need to throw a public spotlight on trafficking – countering the lies of the traffickers with vigorous media and advocacy campaigns.
What the ILO can offer
The ILO has been deeply engaged in anti-trafficking issues — at both the global and regional levels. This includes, for example, major projects carried out by IPEC — the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour. IPEC has programmes in South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka), and in Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia).
The ILO has also had a major three-year project to combat the trafficking of women and children in the Mekong sub-region. In addition to extensive work with youth and other groups, this has generated a wealth of important publications at at both sub-regional and national levels. See the link to the right.