KABUL, 3 Feb 2004 (IRIN) - A new report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) argues that Afghanistan remains an important source country for human trafficking, despite improvements in the conditions of women and girls in post-conflict Afghanistan.
Trafficking in human beings is a global phenomenon and according to the Geneva-based organisation, an estimated 900,000 people are trafficked each year, while an untold number are trafficked within their countries. "Unfortunately Afghanistan is no exception to this and is confronted with a significant trafficking problem," Richard Danziger, IOM chief of mission, told IRIN on Thursday, in the capital, Kabul.
IOM said it had learnt that there were many forms of trafficking practiced in Afghanistan including exploitation of prostitutes, forced labour, slavery and practices similar to slavery, servitude and removal of body organs.
According to the report, Afghans are also suffering from other human rights abuses, which are related to trafficking. These include forced recruitment into armed groups, forced labour for poppy cultivation and the abduction of young men and boys for forced religious training.
"Trafficking in Afghanistan can be attributed to many factors, including a long-standing conflict, lack of internal security, poverty and poor socio-economic perspectives," said the report, adding that some traditions also contributed to specific forms of trafficking, such as the giving up or exchange of women to end local feuds.
The migration agency said the report was based on IOM's questionnaire distributed to organisations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran and consultations with community leaders and human rights activists. The IOM initiative was a part of a project funded by Washington's State Department to monitor and combat trafficking. The programme is trying to help Kabul to address trafficking through technical assistance and awareness-raising activities.
"Traffickers also target persons seeking employment opportunities in other countries, and prey upon their desire for a better life through facilitated illegal migration, followed by exploitation," Danziger said, adding that Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries were also victimised for many reasons including lack of basic services and protection, poverty as well as the same traditions practiced in Afghanistan.
A local human rights activist told IRIN that one of the reasons behind increasing human trafficking in the last ten yeas was poverty, which had caused tens of thousands of Afghans to go to foreign countries through illegal migration. "Often families sell their property or borrow huge amounts of money to send their adult sons abroad. They then become the prey of international traffickers," said Lal Gul, chairman of the Afghan Commission for Human Rights (ACHR).
Gul said many of the human trafficking victims were children, who were often abducted to Gulf countries. "Just recently, fifty Afghan children found in Saudi Arabia were sent back by the Saudi government to Afghanistan," Gul said, adding that ACHR had information that hundreds of Afghan trafficking victims were in custody in Asian, European and Gulf states.
Late last year, a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report expressed concern about the trafficking of children from Afghanistan. The UN agency called for urgent intervention from the Afghan government to prevent child abduction and trafficking.
"There can be no easy or fast solution, but there are measures that can be taken to begin to combat trafficking," the IOM report recommended, calling upon authorities to sign, ratify and implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and to develop national legislation against trafficking in persons. "This should prohibit abductions for forced marriage, sexual and domestic servitudes," said the report.
For the full IOM report, go to: www.iom.int
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