Tuesday, July 30, 2019 was the 6th World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. In Uganda. The commemoration was held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala under the national theme: ‘Uganda’s Efforts to Combat and Manage Trafficking in persons - achievements, challenges and way forward.’ This is certainly an important day. As designated by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution A/RES/68/192 of 2013, the day is meant to raise awareness of the plight of victims of human trafficking, and for the promotion and protection of their rights.
The problem of trafficking in persons remains huge, with most countries falling in either or all the categories of origin, transit, or destination. In Uganda, according to the latest Performance Report of the Coordination Office for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (COPTiP) in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the total number of registered incidents of trafficking in persons in Uganda (both internal and cross-border) rose nearly 62 per cent from 177 in 2017 to 286 in 2018. Over the same period, the total number of detected victims of TiP also rose from 355 to 650. Sadly, the trend is the same across the world, with the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018 also showing an increase in the number of reported victims of trafficking.
Contexts vary, but the storylines are largely the same. Ambitious, energetic but desperate young people are taken from their home areas/countries with grand promises, only to end up being enslaved, exploited or even killed. In most cases, the traffickers take their thriving business to their next unsuspecting target, while the victims are left to live in misery or die slow painful deaths.
The theme for this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons underscores the importance of government action in the interest of victims of trafficking. This can’t be emphasised enough, because of the centrality of government leadership, mobilisation and coordination of partner efforts.
Indeed Uganda has taken commendable strides in the fight against human trafficking. It is, for instance, 10 years since the passing by Parliament of the The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009. This is an important law that reflects the spirit of the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol, which came into force in 2003. Working with partners such as the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), the government continues to pursue Bilateral Labour Agreements (BLAs) with countries that take big numbers of Ugandan migrant workers. Already, BLAs are in place with Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and more are expected. Further initiatives such as the setting up of COPTiP and vetting of labour exporting firms need our commendation. Within the UN, we reiterate our commitment to supporting and complementing government efforts against trafficking. In partnership with the European Union and other donors, programmes such as Better Migration Management and the Spotlight Initiative, IOM and UNDP are supporting the government with technical, capacity-building and logistical assistance, conducting public awareness campaigns, direct livelihood and reintegration assistance to victims of trafficking.
However, we all need to do more to confront the vice of trafficking in persons, especially by collectively supporting the 4Ps (prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership) against this crime that brutally violates the victims’ human rights. The public need not be left behind. All of us probably know a relative or a friend who thinks “I need to try my luck out there”. When we come across such a statement, let our default counsel be to urge caution, so that our people do not easily fall into the ruthless hands of traffickers.
Mr Abdi is the International Organisation for Migration Uganda Chief of Mission