The crime of trafficking in persons affects virtually every country in every region in the world, but the Southeast Asian region in particular is hosting a robust flow of trans-regional trafficking in persons for forced labor and sexual exploitation involving thousands of men, women and children every year.

“ASEAN is integrating toward a more fluid movement of people, services, capital and goods,” said Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, a professor of law and acting executive director of the Human Rights Resource Center (HRRC), during a meeting and workshop on trafficking in persons in Sanur and Uluwatu, Bali, over the weekend.

“Helping to ensure each member state is equipped with the knowledge and the institutional safeguards to stop trafficking in persons becomes a matter of urgency,” she explained at the four-day meeting of the eighth annual Summer Institute for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

The event was jointly organized by the HRRC, the Worldwide Support for Development (WSD) Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, the East West Center in the US and the Denpasar-based Udayana University.

The event obtained support from the US government, the British Embassy in Jakarta and the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The theme this year was, “Preventing Slavery and Trafficking in Persons in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)”.

“Trafficking in persons is a transnational crime that is estimated by the International Labor Organization [ILO] to generate approximately US$32 billion per year in global revenues. While a majority of trafficking victims are subject to sexual exploitation, cases of labor exploitation are rocketing,” according to an HRRC press release issued Aug. 11.

“The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons reveals that some 40 percent of the victims detected between 2010 and 2012 were trafficked for forced labor. The report also notes that most victims are trafficked close to home, within the region or even in their country of origin. ASEAN has made important strides toward combating trafficking over the last two decades. The work is expected to culminate in the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons and the ASEAN Plan of Action, both of which are due to be adopted at the ASEAN Summit in November 2015.

“They will provide ASEAN actors with a blueprint for ongoing cooperation and coordination to prevent, protect [the victims] and prosecute [those responsible for] trafficking in persons.”

In his keynote address, Singapore’s Ambassador Ong Keng Young stated, “Slavery and trafficking are insults to humanity. Anti-trafficking efforts must include multistakeholdership.”

International Organization of Migration (IOM) Indonesia states that Indonesia is a key source of cross-border and internal trafficking in persons, mostly for labor and sexual exploitation.

“A majority of cross-border victims are women migrants being trafficked through labor recruitment channels.Trafficking into the country is also an issue, with victims originating from other ASEAN countries, or from as far as South America to work in the sex or fishing industries,” an IOM report stated.

As of 2014, IOM assisted more than 7,000 victims of trafficking in persons.

With the theme “Combatting Trafficking in Persons: It Takes a Village to Move a Mountain”, a public forum was also held at Udayana University on Friday to discuss how different actors in the community, especially youth, can be more engaged in fighting against trafficking.

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