Action plan against human trafficking

Human trafficking is the modern term for slavery, mostly of women and children who are forced into labor or to perform sexual acts. Greece is both a destination and transit point for trafficking, but has gradually become involved in the fight against the trade in humans. A conference in Rhodes last weekend on helping victims was one example of what is being done within a national action plan against trafficking. It is no easy task, first because of the vast profits to be made. According to the United Nations, human trafficking is the third most profitable activity for organized crime, after drugs and weapons sales. The second obstacle is the great poverty in the victims’ countries of origin. «Wiping out this kind of slavery will only be achieved if we all commit ourselves to work together to build stability, a civil society and security in all (these) countries, and allow economic growth and prosperity to do away with phenomena that are an insult to human dignity,» said Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Thirdly, as the victims live in a state of fear for their own lives or those of their families, they are afraid to speak up. And finally, getting information is difficult; this only makes it easier for the trafficking rings to escape detection. The national action plan is aimed at «preventing human trafficking and protecting its victims,» according to Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis. It involves cooperation between relevant ministries with international organizations, and also interstate accords (most recently with Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Non-governmental organizations are also involved, and there are training programs for representatives of all state agencies involved. Last weekend’s Rhodes conference was organized by the Prosecutors’ Union of Greece and the International Migration Organization, under the auspices of Hellenic AID. Safe houses for victims have also been set up in Greece to provide medical and psychological assistance. Obviously much more needs to be done, but these initial steps will do something to improve Greece’s image abroad. Just a year ago, a US State Department report included Greece in a group of countries to watch. This year’s report is due out on June 1. It isn’t only the US that has pointed out Greece’s record. A survey carried out by Kapa Research for the Greek Committee of UNICEF in November 2001 found that «the majority of Greeks believe that the incidence of child labor and the sexual exploitation of children is so great as to be a social problem.»