3:00 P.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: I would like to welcome everybody here to the Washington Foreign Press Center and our guests joining us via DVC. We are in a on-the-record roundtable to talk about human trafficking in Africa. I’m very pleased to have with us our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa Ms. Bisa Williams. I am also very pleased to have with us our Special Coordinator in the Office of Trafficking in Persons, Ms. Rachel Yousey, and extremely grateful and honored to have with us the UN Special Rapporteur for Trafficking in Persons, Dr. Joy Ezeilo joining us from Indiana University, where she is proudly attending the graduation of her daughter from medical school. So congratulations.
I will now just toss the floor to Deputy Assistant Secretary Bisa Williams for some introductory remarks, and then we’ll move to Ms. Yousey for some remarks as well.
MS. WILLIAMS: Thank you and good day, everyone. I’m very pleased to be here today to talk about this very important subject, and I wanted to begin by commenting from a larger perspective. Trafficking in persons takes many forms in sub-Saharan Africa and it covers many sectors and affects men, women, and children. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, our U.S. embassies engage governments and civil society on this issue. We use the recommendations in our annual Trafficking in Persons Report to encourage governments to make efforts across what we call the three Ps: prosecution, protection, and prevention. And we work with governments and the civil society to gather information – to gather information on governments’ anti-trafficking efforts and to determine where the United States Government may advise and assist.
Our goal is to ensure measurable progress in the fight against human trafficking year after year after year. So broadly speaking, African governments and governments around the world can work to improve their efforts in three key areas. The first would be in the legislative area. We need a strong legislative framework. It’s critical to implement effective criminal justice – a criminal justice response and – in order to combat trafficking. Governments should develop or in many instances strengthen the legal frameworks that exist to be consistent with the UN Palermo Protocol.
The second area would be in the effectiveness of trafficking efforts by setting up institutional structures within a government. Governments should establish national coordination bodies to coordinate inter-ministerial activities in their efforts so that they can measure their progress as well. We have to ensure the compliance of laws and we have to – we recommend that governments establish task forces that involve criminal justice practitioners who are dedicated to prosecuting human trafficking cases.
And thirdly and most importantly, governments must work to put the victim at the center of their efforts. Victims need to be supported from rescue to the placement in a shelter, to testimony at a trial and eventual progress, and to recovery and reintegration as a survivor. So first line responders have to learn how to identify and interview victims, and governments must support victim protection programming.
To illustrate the enormous complexity of trafficking in persons in this discussion, I’d like briefly to comment on the sickening tragedy that I’m sure most of you are following closely, and that is the abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls. In the case of the girls, it’s far too early to state that this is going – this is a trafficking incident. There are important distinctions between abduction and trafficking. But with the international media’s attention and emphasis on the potential for trafficking in this case, we thought it would be important – I have at least to mention this and to highlight that the Nigerian Government’s response in general to trafficking is one of the most comprehensive that you have on the continent. Several ministries in Nigeria cooperate with each other at the national and local levels, working alongside NGOs to fight trafficking.
The case of the schoolgirls demonstrates that there can be a nexus, there is often a nexus between trafficking in persons and other serious crimes such as terrorism, and many of the same networks which engage in crimes also smuggle weapons, drugs, and launder money. So as complicated and heartbreaking an issue as the case is with the abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls, there can be optimism. Well, there can be optimism that we are all working together to deal with that particular issue. And I am sure that I’ll have more questions on the Nigerian girls’ case.
But in trafficking in general, it is a worldwide problem, but it is a worldwide problem in which governments are working together and in which we, the United States, are working with individual governments. We’re trying to learn from each other and to share our best practices. Our efforts are such that we’re hoping that we will open transnational or cross-border cooperation, regional cooperation, and international cooperation.
I think I’d like to close here. I do have an expert here with us with Rachel Yousey, who is our Senior Coordinator in the office that deals with trafficking in persons. I also thank you again for taking this opportunity, and perhaps, Rachel, you want to say a few words.
MS. YOUSEY: Thank you. As Ambassador Williams has mentioned, trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, is a reality in the lives of millions of people every day in the United States, in Africa, and in countries around the world. And before we embarked on this discussion, especially before we embarked on questions and answers, I wanted to make sure that we were talking about the same issue, because in different countries, in different contexts, there are different ideas of what this human trafficking really is.
And over the past 15 years following the negotiation of the United Nations Protocols to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, which was negotiated in the year 2000, the phrases “trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” have been used as umbrella terms to cover a whole host of crimes and activities that are involved in when someone obtains or maintains one person or a group of people in a situation of compelled service.
Human trafficking is exploitation of a person through the use of force or fraud or coercion for the purposes of providing any type of labor or a commercial sex act. Human trafficking victims also include children under the age of 18 who are induced to perform a commercial sex act regardless of whether the element of force, fraud, or coercion is present.
It is important also for us to note that movement is not required for the crime of human trafficking to occur. Often when people think human trafficking, they think someone being moved from one country to another or from one place to another. And while movement can very much be involved in the human trafficking crime, it is not an essential element of the crime.
And what is the essential element of the crime? It is the exploitation of a person in either a type of forced labor or in forced prostitution of adults or child prostitution. If one of these types of exploitations does not occur, then the crime of human trafficking has not occurred, even though many other types of crimes may have occurred or been committed against this individual.
The International Labor Organization in 2012 estimated that there were approximately 20.9 million victims of human trafficking in the world at any given time, and that 3.7 million of those victims were estimated to be within the African subcontinent. In Africa as in other regions, human trafficking takes on many different forms. For example, African women are forced or coerced into prostitution within their own countries or in neighboring countries. Children, both boys and girls, are also found in the commercial sex trade. Forced labor occurs in Africa in domestic service, agriculture, mining, fishing, begging, street vending, and textile sectors among others. And armed groups, including governmental armed forces, recruit, sometimes by force, adults and children for use on various purposes, including combatants, spies, porters, domestic workers, guards, intelligence gathering, and at times for use as sex slaves.
In terms of transnational trends affecting Africans, European countries are the primary destinations for women from West Africa who are in situations of forced prostitution, while some Middle Eastern countries are destinations for victims from East and Central Africa who are, in both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, often in the domestic service sector. Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, and China have become destinations in recent years for victims from East Africa, particularly those from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya. But this is not to say that Africans are taken outward and exploited. Also, people from other continents are brought into Africa and face exploitation on the continent. For instance, Asian and Eastern European women have been identified in situations of forced prostitution in a number of countries throughout Africa.
The State Department produces an annual report on human trafficking that analyzes the situation of trafficking in 188 countries around the world, as well as what governments of those countries are doing to combat the problem of human trafficking. Across Africa, as Ambassador Williams mentioned, governments are working to prosecute traffickers, to identify and protect victims, and to prevent the trafficking crime from occurring in the first place. And I just want to give a couple of examples. I won’t go into the many things that African governments are doing, but for instance, half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa have prohibited the crime of human trafficking and have penalties under their law to address these crimes when they occur.
For instance, the Governments of Sudan and Seychelles in early 2014 passed new anti-trafficking legislation. They never had anti-trafficking legislation before, and now they have legislation on the books that can be used to address trafficking crimes. Other governments are in the process of either passing new legislation or amending their current legislation on the books. Governments are working on implementing their laws. For instance, some countries are developing very innovative task force structures where law enforcement and NGOs and victims’ service providers are partnering together to identify these cases, to rescue victims, and to provide them protection once they are rescued.
Some governments this year have prosecuted and convicted their first human traffickers. For instance, the Government of Liberia in 2013 convicted its first case of human trafficking under its 2005 human trafficking law. So while there is still a long way to go in Africa in terms of stopping the impunity for traffickers which occur all throughout the world, in terms of identifying and protecting victims; in terms of preventing the crime from occurring, there are many bright spots. And we have seen now since we’ve been publishing the first report on human trafficking in 2001 that between then and now there has been quite a bit of progress on the continent in relation to addressing human trafficking.
So with that, I think I can pass the floor onwards.
MODERATOR: I think at this point – Dr. Ezeilo, if you’re there, we’re going to move just to the questions from the media around the table and have you share your comments through those questions. Does that sound good?
MS. EZEILO: Okay.
MODERATOR: All right. So if we have – we do have, I know, some foreign journalists joining us there from New York.
MS. EZEILO: I can barely hear you.
MS. YOUSEY: She said she could hardly hear us.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll do our best to talk very loudly and try to make this work. (Laughter.) New York, I know we have some journalists there. This is the – let me explain first. Before we go into the questions, I’d like to ask that you please give your outlet and name. At the Washington Foreign Press Center we do cater to our foreign media based in the United States, so we do allow the first round of questions to go to our foreign media. So I’d like to ask the indulgence of our domestic media here to allow them the first round of questions, and then we’ll move through to others.
So New York, can you hear us?
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
MODERATOR: And if you’d like to start with question there, again, please just identify yourself by outlet and name.
MODERATOR: Yes, and your question?
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I would want to know how far the agency in charge of trafficking (inaudible) it has right now on hand.
MODERATOR: Can you repeat that last part? What it has on hand?
MODERATOR: Handicaps in executing our efforts? Okay.
MS. YOUSEY: Is he asking about in Nigeria or here?
MODERATOR: Are you asking in general about the African continent? Where we’ve faced challenges in addressing trafficking in persons?
QUESTION: Yeah, would you focus on Nigeria?
MODERATOR: With a focus on Nigeria. Okay, thank you. Rachel, do you have anything you’d like to say, or --
MS. YOUSEY: Yeah. Okay, within the context of Nigeria specifically, there is a very complex human trafficking problem, and it transcends the issues of Boko Haram and has been around much longer. For instance, Nigerian women and girls are subjected to domestic servitude and sex trafficking within the country. Nigerian boys are subjected to forced labor in a variety of sectors, including street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture, and begging. Nigerian women and children are taken to other countries in West and Central Africa where they are exploited in some of these same ways, and Nigerian women and girls are exploited in situations of prostitution throughout Europe and in some other parts of the world in many, many different countries.
So I think there’s quite a wide variety of trafficking that affects Nigeria, and the Government of Nigeria has been doing a variety of things over the past several years to address its human trafficking problem, both internally and its trafficking problem of Nigerians who are exploited overseas. For instance, Nigeria does have comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation. It was one of the first countries in Africa to pass this legislation, and it’s in the process right now of further amending its legislation to strengthen its ability to address trafficking crimes.
Nigeria has a dedicated anti-trafficking agency called NAPTIP. N-A-P-T-I-P is the acronym for it. And NAPTIP is very active in investigating human trafficking cases, in prosecuting cases, and in providing shelter for several hundred victims of trafficking each year.
The Government of Nigeria has dedicated in the past year – that would be 2013 – about $13.6 million to its anti-trafficking effort. Some of that goes to NAPTIP and some of that goes to the state government so that they can work on human trafficking at the state level. Over the past year, Nigeria has prosecuted over 300 cases of human trafficking, which is a significant number in comparison to some other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has provided training to a significant number of law enforcement officials.
You will see that in June of 2014 – so coming up next month – the State Department will publish the annual Human Trafficking Report. And we will, as we do for 188 countries, have a specific narrative on Nigeria, which discusses in far greater detail the efforts they have made over the past year. But you can certainly also go to the June 2013 TIP report to read about what Nigeria was undertaking in terms of human trafficking in 2012.
This does not mean that Nigeria or any country around the world has succeeded in eradicating trafficking or in doing all that it can do to combat trafficking. Nigeria is in the same fight against human trafficking that the U.S. Government is. We have a significant problem of human trafficking within our own borders that we are still learning to address more effectively and to take even additional actions to counteract.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Dr. Ezeilo, I don't know if you’d like to add anything about, from your perspective, challenges to addressing trafficking issues, specifically in Nigeria?
MS. EZEILO: Just to add to what she has said already, I think the problem will now be to address the root causes of trafficking. This may be one of the areas where the roadblocks or they have major obstacles, the push-and-pull factors – we have to go back to basic, why do people get trafficked, and what can be done to prevent that trafficking. And to prevent that within the context of Nigeria – and that also speaks to many other countries in Africa – they really need to address root causes of trafficking, which includes huge youth unemployment, educational-disadvantaged people, social inclusion, poverty, all of these factors, including gender discrimination and gender inequality – are factors that makes people want to resort to human trafficking. And so long as we don’t address its root causes, whatever we do will be just (inaudible) that were there, with the same (inaudible) the problem.
This is very, very, very important in the context of Africa, because joblessness of youth is making them restless. It’s (inaudible) of human security, the struggle to survive, livelyhood. They want people (inaudible) opportunity without investigating, they just take it up because they think that will better their lives and that will help them to survive. So the root – addressing root causes, in effect, is crucial to a sustainable and effective way to combat human trafficking within the Africa context, and even elsewhere in the world, like Asian-Pacific.
MS. WILLIAMS: Dr. – if I may, Dr. Ezeilo, I’d like to thank you for that – and this is Bisa Williams talking – and also say that some of those same root causes are also pull factors when it comes to dealing with terrorism. And that’s where you often see the nexus between trafficking and terrorism and other illicit activities or trafficking and smuggling and cartel-type activities. And that is also one of the reasons why President Obama has focused so much on youth. It’s why we have the YALI initiative, the Young African Leaders Initiative, which is an enhanced initiative to really reach out to African youth and provide training and opportunities and exposure to management, to opportunities, to fulfilling actually private entrepreneurship ideas as well to address this dearth of opportunity – the dearth of the realization of opportunity in Africa.
So we too have – in addressing the counterterrorism measures, we have talked about really addressing youth employment and engaging communities and engaging interaction between local communities and central government to combat those very, very same issues. So I really appreciate the fact that you brought that in, and it helps really describe how trafficking and terrorism can sometimes overlap.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Do we have another question from the floor? New York or here? Foreign media, preferably.
QUESTION: Yeah, hello. My name is Maurizio Guerrero. I work for the Mexican newswire agency Notimex. And my question would be: Can you read the numbers about people trafficking in Nigeria, and presently, how many of those are minors and girls? And did you see that this problem is increasing in the last couple of months in the last report of the State Department?
And another question related to that is that – do you see these extremist organizations – Boko Haram – are acting now, are kidnapping girls and people in general for – to advance their causes? Thank you so much.
MODERATOR: Two different questions. Let’s take the first.
MS. YOUSEY: Yes, okay, excellent. So the question is about the numbers of human trafficking victims in Nigeria and whether they’re – if we have breakdowns for minors and adults, et cetera. The answer is that to my knowledge, there are no good numbers of victims of human trafficking in Nigeria or in most any country. And why is this? Because trafficking is a hidden crime. You do not often see victims standing up when statisticians are coming around raising their hand and saying, “Yes, please come, identify me, and count me.”
And so we have – we do not know for absolute certain the number of trafficking victims in the United States or in any other country. And we have seen no indication in the last couple of months that the overall situation of human trafficking in Nigeria is increasing as a result of any factor. How – oh, go ahead. No, go ahead.
MS. WILLIAMS: Are you finished? The second part of that question dealt with extremist organizations and our – and we see them becoming more active now with kidnapping in order to achieve their goals. And I think you hit on an important point. I don’t think we’ve measured exactly, but we – it is true that kidnapping for ransom has become a bit of an industry with extremist organizations and with just criminal organizations, which is one of the reasons why the United States Government doesn’t support negotiation or dealing directly with terrorists or dealing directly in those kinds of instances in supporting kidnapping for ransom, because it ends up funding the very activity that we’re trying to prevent.
So we have seen an uptick in kidnappings, but – and we would submit – although it’s an unproven theory, we would submit that part of that is because it has become a lucrative cottage industry.
MODERATOR: We have a follow-up question here on that, I think, so I’ll move --
QUESTION: Yes. Jason Szep from Reuters. It just – speaking to this, do you have a sense of the economics of human trafficking or of kidnapping?
MS. EZEILO: I can barely hear the question.
MODERATOR: Yeah. I’ll repeat it for you – okay. If you could come up.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks. Do you have a sense of the economics of human trafficking, of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria, particularly in the north area where Boko Haram operates? I mean, how much – you mentioned it’s an industry. Can we get a sense of what it really means, for example, per person? In some cases, you can break that down in some countries.
MS. WILLIAMS: Well, actually, what – for the terrorism and kidnappings parts, you actually can’t, because few persons really talk with any authority about how much money they’re paid. You just hear later on rumors, reports that ransoms were – that sums of money were – exchanged hands. So I did use a graphic description because I think it’s fitting.
But no, we don’t have exact numbers. Very few people are going to tell you, whether they’re official governments or companies or individual families – are going to tell you how much they actually paid to free hostages.
QUESTION: Do you know how much Boko Haram is generating from this?
MS. WILLIAMS: No, I can’t. We don’t have the estimates of that, unfortunately.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Did we get that last bit of the question, Dr. Ezeilo? Were you able to hear that question and the response about the financial gains and breakdown? We don’t really --
MS. EZEILO: That’s just part of it, but not all. I just have to say that it’s interesting that most countries also in their definition of trafficking would have to include (inaudible) kidnap or abduction. It is not all cases of kidnapping or abduction that result in trafficking. They did once also (inaudible), but we know that (inaudible) part of organized crime, that kidnapping, not just in Nigeria but broadly in many in many other countries and in many other parts of the world is becoming a growing business. And that is of course, it’s clear it’s part of organized crime that is also dealt with by other UN conventions and of course with the world in general, (inaudible).
But moving away also from that to look at the Nigerian context with regard to Boko Haram and maybe abduction or kidnapping of the girls. Of course, the element of trafficking is there because apart from their threat to sell them off, there is also high suspicion that some of them have been moved across borders. And in this case, of course, the fact that they were abducted from school and would mean that parts of Africa, like in – not in Uganda (inaudible), and then by Kony and all that, they abduct girls regularly from school. And including boys, they become trafficked, used as mercenaries, and then also held sexual slavery, in domestic servitude, and all order of exploitation that comes within the definition of trafficking and of course recognized by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons Palermo protocol, which is also supplementary to the UN convention on organized crime.
So this is more countries having stipulated (inaudible) to deal with this part of crime. Definitely (inaudible), we have that, and increasingly – and in Nigeria, it’s actually very common by the the anti-trafficking law because it clearly talks about kidnapping and abduction, and then the trafficking people (inaudible). So it is within that illegal framework of the (inaudible) the element of terrorism that comes in, and then also to what extent that it makes to human insecurity and then also to the growing fundamentalism we see, not only in Nigeria but in other parts of the world.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Do we have another question?
MODERATOR: Here in Washington.
QUESTION: Yeah, we’re in Washington. It’s Robert MacPherson with AFP, Agence France-Presse. So we have a special rapporteur who just said there’s an element of trafficking in the Boko Haram schoolgirl affair. And Ms. Williams, you just said it’s far too early to state this as a trafficking incident. There’s a gap between you two. Can you – care to elaborate between the two of you?
MS. WILLIAMS: Sure. I’ll at least talk from the United States Government point of view. We are concerned. We – number one, we don’t know where these girls are, and we are – we have sent a team to try to help the Nigerian Government determine that and to support them – to support the Nigerian Government in its efforts to recover the girls to have them returned home safely. There is concern, for sure, that the girls may be sold, that the girls may be being forced into servitude, or – some have talked about forced – early marriage and things like that. There simply isn’t any information, so we have to stop short of saying this is an instance of trafficking.
What we can say is that it’s an illegal abduction, that it’s kidnapping, that this is a terrorist group, and that the leaders of Boko Haram have already been declared terrorists and put on the terrorist list.
QUESTION: But you’ve also said that there’s a nexus between terrorism --
MS. WILLIAMS: I said there can be. Obviously, there can be. Some of the methodologies have – are the same. But you have to look at all the methodologies. And at this point, we know that the girls have been kidnapped. And we are working very hard to help the Nigerian Government recover the girls to get them home safely
QUESTION: So – sorry. Can I follow up?
MODERATOR: Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Dana Hughes, ABC News. So just to clarify in terms of, like, the definition of trafficking using the example of the Nigerian girls. If, for example, Boko Haram just exchanges them for prisoners, then they would be – it would have just been considered an abduction. But if they either sell them or hold them as quote-unquote, “wives,” and force them into servitude, then it becomes a trafficking issue? Is that – would you say that’s a difference?
MS. WILLIAMS: Our concentration on finding these over 270 girls that have been taken from their homes and their families is really on finding those girls. And it’s very important that the focus on – that this tragedy has really seized the hearts, minds, imaginations, and political will of the international community. The world is focused now on Nigeria. And the world – and that has given rise to fora like this to examine these kinds of questions.
But actually, my government is focused on supporting the Nigerian Government in every way possible to try to get the girls back home, and we’ll talk about the definitions, I guess, post (inaudible).
QUESTION: But in general, in Sub-Saharan Africa – so when you’re dealing with, say, Congo, or you’re dealing, like, with M23, your FDLR, or you’re dealing with LRA and they have conscription of child soldiers, but they also have the taking of young girls as rebel wives – that’s not necessarily for economic benefit, but it is servitude. Is that considered when you’re looking at the definition of human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa? Is that considered trafficking?
MS. YOUSEY: The Trafficking in Persons Report in coverage of certain types of behavior by certain armed groups has called these types of things human trafficking for a number of years. So, yes, when we’re looking at conscription of children or adults against their will into armed groups, that does fall under the U.S. Government’s definition of human trafficking.
MODERATOR: Dr. Ezeilo, I don’t know if you have any comment to add.
MS. EZEILO: Yes. Can you go ahead? What’s the question?
MODERATOR: The question was the definition of trafficking, and how would that change if the – in the specific instance with the young girls in Nigeria, would it still be considered trafficking if they were exchanged for prisoners versus if they were sold or forced into marriage? Does that definition change based on the outcome?
MS. EZEILO: Yes, of course. The consequence of the abduction and kidnap (inaudible) the trafficking is they are forced into marriage or forced marriage, or domestic servitude or forced to be used as mercenary – or even to become, God forbid, terrorist and all of that. That would be part of – that would be trafficking. Because when you look at the purpose, because then in the definition you will have the act and the means and then the purpose. These are three important (inaudible) in defining the offense of trafficking.
So if that outcome is one of the – falls within the explicit definition of what constitutes exploitation or that trafficking of persons shall include at a minimum, exploitation of trafficking for domestic services, forced marriage, slavery – slavery is also important because they could be held in sexual slavery, means they are not forced into marriage. That also will contribute to the outcome, and definitely will tell us whether this is truly trafficking or not.
QUESTION: Sorry, can I ask one quick follow-up?
MS. EZEILO: And now we’re just judging from what we’ve heard and from the threats by the leader of Boko Haram to sell the girls and then some other unconfirmed information that actually some of them have been sold and may have also left the borders of Nigeria, in which case that already has quite a lot of elements of trafficking within (inaudible) definition of (inaudible) protocol.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We have a follow-up question. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: In – based off of that, there’s also sort of an issue of child – forced child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa. Is that considered – are those considered part of the human trafficking numbers when you’re talking about trafficking in Africa?
MS. YOUSEY: Did Joy want to answer first, or --
PARTICIPANT: Forced early marriage.
MODERATOR: We’ll go – Rachel, we’ll have you answer first, and then we’ll go to Joy.
MS. YOUSEY: Okay. So forced marriage, when children or adults – it could be men or women who are forced into marriage – are – if the purpose of the marriage is to place the person into commercial sexual exploitation or into some type of forced labor such as domestic servitude, these are absolutely cases of human trafficking. In all cases of human trafficking, it is very important to look at it on a case-by-case basis. It is not possible to categorically say that all of one type of thing is human trafficking, because each situation has its own nuances.
So what we are really looking for in terms of the U.S. definition of human trafficking is: In the context of the forced marriage, has there been elements of forced labor – of any type of forced labor, not just domestic servitude – or of commercial sexual exploitation or of a situation that would be tantamount to sexual slavery?
MODERATOR: Dr. Ezeilo, I don’t know if you’d like to add on that, the question of whether forced marriage would equal trafficking in person.
MS. EZEILO: It depends on the situation. If people are abducted, recruited, and then taken away from their guardian or persons who have control of them and moved for the purpose of forced marriage, and then there is element, of course, that this is not of their obligation, then that will amount to trafficking. But not every case of forced marriage will be definitely trafficking. So we have to make that distinction very clear. Not every case of force – because we know also that in many communities in Africa, that there is also the issue of forced and early marriage. We have parents totally or guardians get the consent of the girl child or girl children before giving them away in marriage, and that not – that case will not necessarily be trafficking. But if the girl or girls have been abducted and then forced into marriage, servile marriage, then that will be trafficking.
So it all depends in context, but it wouldn’t be right to say that every case of forced marriage which could be the result of customary religious or cultural background cannot amount to trafficking. But if they are moved completely and then, of course, for the economic gains taken by (inaudible) of them, it can also switch and become trafficking. So it actually depends, but you have to look on a case-by-case basis, just – the point has been made that it’s not about one size fits all with this when you are dealing with the short definition. You have to look at the fact, you have to look at the scenario, you have to look at the context before you can determine in a particular case whether that is trafficking or not. That’s guided, of course, by the international definition of trafficking. And then in some case, I know there have been a lot of contestations around whether there is movement or no movement. Yes, I think it’s the movement just make it clear that it’s trafficking, but it’s not always that that movement is necessary or that that movement must be across borders. Because even if the girls, for example, in the case of Boko Haram, are – did not move across Nigeria, but they were forced into marriage – into marriage or domestic servitude – it would still be trafficking, even if they had not left the shores of Nigeria or the borders of Nigeria.
MODERATOR: Thank you. I think we have time for just a few more questions. If – I’d like to go to New York first, and then I’ll come back to Washington. So New York, do you have another question for us?
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I remember clearly that Nigeria (inaudible) all the plans against (inaudible) trafficking (inaudible) through education (inaudible) the media, and a program that was working indeed to (inaudible) in Italy, and the (inaudible) against the (inaudible) video called Italian Connection. How much of all of this has succeeded in bringing about a reduction in trafficking (inaudible)? Because it looks like it’s going all right and calming down.
MS. EZEILO: Well, according to my work in this context as the UN Special Rapporteur (inaudible), I’m not just about Nigeria. I could speak to some of the issues also within the broader context of prevention of trafficking that is being taken by many members, UN member states, including states that have ratified the Palermo Protocol.
Yes, education is very important because we see that education will give opportunity for employment and opportunity to access decent work and have a livelihood. So to that extent, any initiative on education will be welcome as a way of addressing social inclusion, as a way of empowerment. So it is important abolition of street trading, hawking, and empowerment of youth. Any youth initiative including the one in the U.S. targeting African Young Leaders. They are all very important because it is lack of opportunity that mostly cause – causes human trafficking. It is part of it when people are complexly excluded where they don’t have any hope, where their freedom is – they don’t enjoy their freedom, they have issue of want, of hunger, of human insecurity in general. So it push them into many of these situation of human trafficking.
So the initiative in (inaudible) I think (inaudible) would be one now coordinated (inaudible) before, and I believe also that what (inaudible) one of the most comprehensive anti-trafficking initiatives in the world, and addressing this in a comprehensive manner. But that’s not to say that there are not gaps, especially gaps in terms of addressing the root causes, prevention, that includes addressing demand, whether demand for cheap labor or the demand for prostitutes and all of that. So it is within that context that we have to look at it (inaudible) education around preventing human trafficking at all levels of education. Because I think they are (inaudible) Nigeria is hugely affected by trafficking both (inaudible) transit and destination country of young people, their struggle to travel and (inaudible) every day to (inaudible) and then also to traffickers.
MODERATOR: Thank you. If we could just go – I think our last question that we have time for we’ll take here in Washington.
QUESTION: Yeah. Hi. It’s Robert MacPherson from AFP again. And Dr. Ezeilo, first of all, congratulations to you and the family on the graduation of your daughter. It must be a great day today.
MS. EZEILO: Thank you.
QUESTION: If instead of talking to us cranky journalists here over the phone you were speaking instead to the leader of Boko Haram and to President Goodwill Jonathan, what would you say to them today as special rapporteur, given the schoolgirl situation? What message would you have for them?
MS. EZEILO: We cannot do politics with the lives of these young girls. These young girls deserve to be home today. I will appeal to them to just leave them out of whatever demands or terror they are unleashing on Nigerian people. And then I will, of course, encourage President Goodluck Jonathan to do whatever it takes, cooperate with other nations that are common to (inaudible), share intelligence – absolutely that is very important – so that they will understand it in the context and know where best to direct their energies.
I will also ask for negotiation. I don’t think a full military, all-out military war. It might jeopardize the life of these girls. And what should be paramount in our minds is how to bring them safely back home. This is any mother’s, any parent worst nightmare. This is horrendous and horrific. We haven’t seen that scale anywhere in the world. And there’s – I’m happy that the world is united in trying to do something to save these girls, to bring them home. My heart bleeds because I’ve seen cases of trafficking, I’ve seen thousands of victims, but this particular situation – I’ve seen, of course, some (inaudible) conflict or who have been trafficked from (inaudible) young girls (inaudible) abducted and then put in harm’s way.
I will appeal to Boko Haram not to put these girls in harm’s way, not to use them for whatever politics, be it religious or otherwise, that they are getting at, to leave them totally out of this. They are minors and deserve to be home (inaudible) and their education should not in any way be compromised. So I join the global effort, to say “Bring back our girls.” Bring back our girls. And I think we should not leave any stone unturned in trying to do that, but we must also handle it carefully so that these girls return to their lives – their precious, precious lives.
It is important and my heart also goes out to the parents, because I think now they need a lot of psychosocial support and counseling. I’m not seeing that happen. And I hope Nigerian government comes quickly with partners (inaudible) counseling on psychosocial support, at the same time for families so they can address issue of their trauma. We have to keep hope alive. And I’m telling the families keep hope alive, because I believe that these girls they will find them and that they will bring back these girls safely. And that is my prayer and that is my hope. And I want everyone to keep hope alive, why we work very hard in the international community to see a peaceful end to this.
MS. WILLIAMS: In fact, Dr. Ezeilo, in – within the United States special team that we sent out to Nigeria a couple of days ago – actually several days ago now – we do have specialists that are trauma counselors and specialists that deal with victims of kidnapping and hostage-taking. So we share you concern that the families and that the girls themselves, the girls who have already escaped who returned, and those who will be returned hopefully very soon, will need counseling. And we are working with the Nigerian Government to provide expertise and to counsel their own counselors who will hopefully be dealing with the girls.
MS. EZEILO: Yeah. That’s important and I’m glad that you have that specialist in that team, because that’s (inaudible) way to go about this rescue. And I believe that the emphasis and the skill in the teams from U.S. will do a lot in ameliorating the already bad situation. Thank you.
MS. WILLIAMS: That’s our hope.
MODERATOR: Yes. Thank you, Dr. Ezeilo, for joining us again and taking time away from you family during this really joyous occasion for you. Thank you very much. Your words were very welcome, and we are glad that you could participate. And now please do go enjoy the rest of the time with your family. Thank you.
MS. EZEILO: Thank you. I appreciate that and I am glad to participate in this. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Yes, and most importantly, yes, thank you for your patience. I know that was quite a bit of a challenge.
And to our briefers here Deputy Assistant Secretary Bisa Williams. Special Coordinator – Senior Coordinator Rachel Yousey thank you as well.
MS. YOUSEY: Thank you.
MODERATOR: That officially closes the briefing.
MS. WILLIAMS: Thank you all.
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