UN Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro Discusses Human Trafficking

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The JCU Department of Political Science and International Affairs invited Maria Grazia Giammarinaro on November 9 for a lecture on human trafficking. Giammarinaro is a judge in the Civil Court of Rome and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, in Particular Women and Children.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro on Human Trafficking

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro on Human Trafficking

Giammarinaro began the lecture by explaining the context of human trafficking in conflict and post-conflict scenarios. Trafficking might happen to individuals fleeing conflict, during conflict itself, and even in post-conflict situations. A common misconception correlates human trafficking with humanitarian crises. However, “trafficking is actually a direct and systemic consequence of humanitarian crises,” said Giammarinaro.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur, humanitarian crises or conflicts create the perfect conditions for human trafficking because of the institutional breakdown that they bring or from which they arise. Groups that are already vulnerable to exploitation in times of peace, such as women and children, are especially at risk when individuals can no longer count on the protection provided by States. Unsurprisingly, minors are also the ones more impacted by human trafficking and forced displacement. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), worldwide 51% of the estimated 19.5 million refugees in 2014 were children.

Human trafficking is a widespread phenomenon in societies affected by conflict and prolonged wars. The most common case consists of individuals entering deals with a smuggler to leave a conflict area. During their journey, they often discover that what they paid (often everything they owned) is not enough. As a result, they are then exploited as a means to pay for the difference. However, children are also recruited for forced military service by government armies, paramilitary groups, and rebel groups while women and young girls are trafficked for forced marriage and sexual enslavement by extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Boko Haram, and their affiliates.

There are also cases in which workers are convinced to migrate with the promise of meaningful employment, only to find themselves enslaved in a different country. Giammarinaro continued by describing the presence of human trafficking in refugee camps. In this case, there are two main scenarios. The first mainly impacts people who try to leave the refugee camps by any means necessary, oftentimes resorting to human traffickers. The second involves young women and girls. Families will sometimes arrange a marriage for their daughters with locals, in the hope that it will allow them to leave the refugee camp and lead a better life. However, this often results in forced marriages, sexual abuse, and domestic exploitation.

Giammarinaro concluded by advancing her solution against human trafficking. She advocated for a permanent, lawful channel for migration – one of much wider breadth than the ones currently in place. She also mentioned the need for increased prevention at the time of migrant arrivals, differently from the current system. For example, women at risk of sex trafficking should be identified the moment they enter a country, not only as a result of the raid of a brothel. Finally, since trafficking is an inescapable consequence of humanitarian crises, the above suggestions should be implemented as soon as a humanitarian crisis arises, and not only when evidence of trafficking starts to appear, Giammarinaro said.

The JCU Department of Political Science and International Affairs offers a course on Human Trafficking and Contemporary Slavery in the Spring Semester 2018 taught by JCU Professor Silvia Scarpa.