Statement by Mr. Masatoshi Shimbo,
Deputy Director-General, Foreign Policy Bureau,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan,
At the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking
Vienna, 14 February 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor for me to speak before the participants at this Forum today in my capacity as the representative of the Government of Japan.
Trafficking in persons (TIP) is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights and dignity. What is more, the rapid progress of globalization and expanding economic disparities have conspired to make TIP a transnational threat. Although TIP is an immediate and widespread issue, there are still many people who are not aware of what human trafficking is and the crime usually remains unexposed, making it difficult to rescue trafficked victims. In addition, there are cases in which victims of TIP, despite being entitled to protection, are unable to request assistance. There are also people who fail to recognize that by engaging in acts of personal pleasure they are actually increasing demand for TIP. To resolve this problem, therefore, it is important to heighten general awareness about the seriousness of TIP.
In this regard, the holding of this unprecedented event has great significance, as it aims to bring together participants from a variety of fields, including parliamentarians, government officials, international organizations, NGOs, civil society and the private sector, in an effort to promote awareness of TIP and encourage cooperation and partnership among all persons concerned. Representatives from civil society in Japan are also participating in this Forum and I hope that the Forum will provide an opportunity for all concerned to share knowledge and experiences based on the various measures and projects implemented to date, and that this will make a considerable contribution to raising global awareness on the issue of TIP. Japan is prepared to make a contribution on this matter.
Based on the provisions of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), Japan has been implementing measures at home and overseas and promoting cooperation, focusing on the prevention and eradication of TIP and protection of victims. More specifically, in 2004 the government established, in the Cabinet, the Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee (Task Force) regarding measures to combat trafficking in persons, and in the same year the Liaison Committee formulated the Comprehensive National Action Plan of Measures to Combat TIP, to implement measures focusing on three areas: prevention, eradication, and protection of trafficked victims.
The first goal of the Action Plan is "prevention," whereby the government constructs measures to tackle various systems that are factors in encouraging TIP in order to stop TIP before it occurs. Frequently victims of TIP are the economically and socially vulnerable and seek a better life in Japan, only to find themselves exploited and their vulnerabilities preyed upon by persons involved in organized crime. To prevent this, Japan has strengthened immigration controls by implementing the Amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, stringent checks upon arrival in Japan, careful examination of visa, introduction of e-Passports. We have adopted border measures including the dispatch of liaison officers to overseas airports in order to identify counterfeited or altered documents. One example of the effects these measures have had is the drastic reduction in recent years of the number of people entering Japan with "entertainer" visa a status which has been often abused and used for trafficking in the past . In addition, measures are being taken to prevent illegal employment. Because we believe it is essencial that TIP be understood in order to encourage prevention. Japan has produced awareness-raising DVDs, pamphlets, and posters on human trafficking which are widely distributed and promoted through the cooperation with local governments and other related organizations.
The second goal of the Action Plan is "eradication" of TIP. This refers to the thorough crackdown on human trafficking that is already taking place and to the promotion of domestic and international cooperation to achieve this aim. Japan has amended the Penal Code to include the buying or selling of persons as a punishable crime and is taking active measures to ensure that the new legislation is aggressively applied and punishments imposed. In addition to vigorously ensuring that crimes relating to TIP be brought to trial, approximately 67% of perpetrators standing trial in lower courts for the crime of buying or selling of persons have been given prison sentences since the amendment of the Penal Code in 2005. Furthermore, police officers and Immigration Bureau personnel participate in an annual nationwide training on the status, enforcement, and combat of TIP. International information exchange on passports is also being implemented through cooperation with overseas investigation authorities.
The third goal contained in the Action Plan is "protection of victims" and efforts are being made both to protect the victims and to provide appropriate assistance. In order to encourage people to become actively aware of the often concealed crime of TIP, and to make efforts to discover and offer protection to victims, the "Anonymous Reporting Line" was established in October 2007. There are cases in which trafficked victims are in fact illegal residents, so we are working to make it clear that all victims are eligible for protection, and that, through the granting of special permission for residence, victims will be granted legal status. In addition, the Action Plan calls for careful response to be made in consideration of the different conditions of each victims, while giving due thought to the severe mental and physical situation in which many of victims find themselves, and this requirement is disseminated to organizations concerned. The required budgetary measures have also been put in place.
When victims are discovered, they are placed under the temporary protection of Women's Consultation Offices (WCO) located in each of the 47 prefectures of Japan or at private-sector shelters commissioned to take on this role. At these locations, victims can access a variety of services, including clothing, food and accommodation, interpretation in their native language, medical care and psychological care. Protection and assistance to the victims in response to individual circumstances is provided in cooperation with NGOs and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which have specialized knowledge and rich experiences in such cases.
Furthermore, as almost all of the victims wish to go back to their home countries, the Japanese Government ensures their safe repatriation and social reintegration of victims through funding the IOM and cooperating with its expertise. As of the end of 2007, assistance had been reached for the repatriation of 126 trafficked victims.
The prevention of TIP and the protection of victims is also important from the perspective of "human security," which is one of the pillars of Japan's foreign policy. "Human security" is the concept of protecting people from the various threats and empowering people to cope with these threats by themselves. The Government of Japan believes that when engaged in measures to combat TIP, it is important to have a dual approach, based on the concept of "human security." Individuals must first be protected from the threat of becoming victims of TIP, and then it is necessary to provide capacity building to ensure that individuals can handle threats by themselves to avoid becoming victims.
In addition to domestic measures to combat TIP, Japan is are also promoting a variety of international cooperative efforts in this regard.
In order to prevent TIP, eradicate it where it exists, and provide opportunities for seamless protection including social reintegration assistance for victims, close cooperation between countries that are destinations for TIP and the countries of origin of trafficked persons is essential.
Since 2004, Japan has dispatched consultative government delegations to a total number of 12 countries that are countries of origin for victims of TIP, and has been undertaking consultations among government officials concerned, international organizations and NGOs, among others. One of the achievements of these missions is a Japan-Thailand Joint Task Force on Counter Trafficking in Persons, that has been established with the Thai Government. In addition, we will be using the opportunity provided by this Forum to hold bilateral meetings with other participating countries' delegations on the margins of the main events.
Since 2002, Japan has made assistance amounting to US$95,017,331 in the area of TIP. Through the UN Trust Fund for Human Security that was established by Japan at the United Nations in order to concretize the aforementioned concept of human security, a considerable number of projects designed to combat TIP have been implemented. Such projects include, for example, the "Prevention of Trafficking in children and women at a community level in Cambodia and Viet Nam" carried out by the ILO, and the "Economic and Social Empowerment of Returned Victims of Trafficking" project also carried out by the ILO in the Philippines and Thailand. Additionally, we have provided assistance to projects to prevent TIP by NGOs which have knowledge and experience in that area in countries such as Colombia and Thailand with the Grass-roots Human Security Grant Aid scheme. Furthermore, we have given assistance for "Art Therapy for Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings in Thailand," which was implemented by the UNODC for the purpose of cultivating care workers to engage in the rehabilitation of victims returning home, and to provide psychological care for the victims themselves.
Bearing in mind that the root cause of TIP is the economic disparity between rich and poor countries, Japan has been vigorously providing assistance for economic and social development in developing countries, while in the midst of its own ongoing stringent fiscal situation, and as one of the world's major Official Development Assistance (ODA) donors we have made efforts to reach root causes of this issue by attempting to raise the economic level of the countries of origin of the victims of TIP.
Moving forward, the Japanese Government intends to continue to provide the greatest degree of cooperation possible in the area of socio-economic development in order to contribute to a fundamental resolution to the issue of economic disparity and further combat TIP.
In November this year the 3rd World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents will be held in Brazil. As the host of the 2nd World Congress, Japan will provide full cooperation to the organizers of the 3rd World Congress to ensure its success and work towards the eradication of the trafficking of children.
In order to eradicate TIP, it is indispensable that not only governmental officials, but each and every citizen fully realize that human trafficking is not an issue that is completely unrelated to their daily lives. It is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights and, as such, must never be allowed. Allow me to close my remarks with the sincere wish that this forum will take further important steps towards raising awareness, and I wish to reassure you that Japan stands ready to continue to contribute to efforts in the international community towards the resolution of this issue.
Thank you very much.
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