Joint Action Needed on Human Trafficking, Corruption: Activist

By Astrid Zweynert 4 September 2015

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — The international fight against corruption must work in tandem with efforts to root out modern slavery since corruption is a key driver of human trafficking, the head of the world’s largest anti-corruption organisation said on Thursday.

Many of the world’s estimated 36 million slaves are trafficked because corrupt police, customs, judicial and other officials take bribes from traffickers, according to government and think-tank research.

“In all parts of the human trafficking chain, corruption is present from the start because you need to bribe a lot of people in order to move the victims of trafficking from one place to another,” said Jose Ugaz, chair of Transparency International.

However, the impact of corruption has been neglected in the development of policies and measures to tackle human trafficking, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Although slavery is illegal in every country, the $150 billion a year human trafficking industry is growing. Victims include girls trafficked to brothels, people forced into manual labour and victims of debt bondage.

“The mix of easy profit and impunity through easily bought protection from law enforcers has created a high reward/low risk scenario for human traffickers and their accomplices,” said Ugaz.

Although such trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise, specific data and in-depth analysis of how it is linked with corruption are limited and international co-operation is sketchy.

Ugaz said no country could stop human trafficking on its own.

“Trafficking is a dramatic reality that is affecting millions of people, and more collective action is needed to fight it,” the Peruvian lawyer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines an international anti-corruption conference.

The Organisation for International Co-operation and Development (OECD) think-tank has established principles for combating corruption relating to human trafficking, aimed at developing tandem strategies at national and international levels.

Transparency International, which works in more than 100 countries and publishes an annual corruption perceptions index, has traditionally focused on practices related to bribery in the public sector, Ugaz said.

But he said with trafficking and global organised crime gaining visibility, Transparency International is increasingly focused on how worldwide criminal networks and corrupt practices interlink.

Ugaz said the battle against corruption and trafficking is being undermined by an increasing number of governments imposing or drafting laws which jeopardize the work of non-government organisations by squeezing their foreign donations or imposing other restrictions.