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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 278
July 14, 2012

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Human Rights Advocacy

Jessore Declaration


Fighting against Human Trafficking and Facilitation of Rescue, Repatriation and Integration

Recognising the immense human-toll of trafficking, we the government representatives and civil society actors (NGOs including the representatives of networks, international organizations and UN organizations) of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, gathered in Jessore, Bangladesh in a two-day long Cross Border Consultation, organized by Rights Jessore under the regional anti-trafficking programme Sanyukt, supported by Groupe Developpement/ Acting for Life and the European Commission from 22nd to 23rd June 2012- stand united in ensuring humane and effective rescue, repatriation and integration of trafficking survivors.

Noting the progress made in legal instruments in addressing the problem of human trafficking, we observe that ineffective implementation of laws and legal inadequacies often delay the process of rescue of trafficking victims or in establishing legal identification of victims of trafficking. Along with capacity building of law enforcing and border security forces there is a need of building a regional framework based of SAARC Conventions, national laws, harmonization of laws and bilateral arrangements to strengthen the cross-border cooperation and joint monitoring to identify, rescue and recover the victims of trafficking in a humane and effective way.

Recognizing that the RRRI taskforces in Bangladesh and India made a headway in making the process of repatriation easier, it is observed that there is a possibility of reducing time in terms of communication, investigation, legal procedures, administrative measures and coordination between origin and destination. In this regard, along with strengthening of the RRRI Taskforce, coordination among RRRI taskforces and adoption of a homogenous SOP, we call upon the governments for pursuing legal and administrative reforms to expedite the process of repatriation and to ensure justice, privacy and participation of the survivors in such a process.

Observing that often the NGOs are challenged with legal and administrative barriers in organizing timely and humane repatriation of the trafficking victims, while a significant number of victims are not appropriately repatriated by destination authorities- we recognize the need of conducting all activities regarding repatriation within the existing legal and human rights charters endorsed by each of the states and nations. At the same time, we highlight on the urgent needs of removing all legal and administrative barriers that violates the rights of the trafficking survivors to access speedy, humane and safe repatriation.

Along side recognizing the cross-border initiatives of government authorities and NGOs, we observe the inadequacies in social, cultural and economic integration often further marginalize, victimize and stigmatize the survivors and in few instances even force toward re-trafficking. In this regard, along with economic and social empowerment of the survivors in terms of promotion and access to alternative livelihood, family reunion or community-based recovery and integration- we urge that further effort is required for quick prosecution of the traffickers, de-stigmatization of the survivors, expansion of social safety-net, access to psychosocial care and curbing the influence of the pull-push factors working behind human trafficking.

Noting that the trafficking survivors have access to livelihood training/supports from shelters after being rescued at destination country, we observe that often these skills do not match the cultural and market realities of the destination country in which they are ultimately repatriated. In this regard we recognize an urgent need of making the post-rescue support services at destination countries specifically relevant and appropriate for the origin country. Moreover, a standardize case-management with support including training and psychosocial care has to be installed in all forms of shelters for trafficking survivors.

Recognizing the roles of shelters in ensuring protection, psychosocial recovery, repatriation and integration of the trafficking survivors, we further note an urgent need of standardization of care and support at these facilities with special focus on psychosocial care, participation of the survivors in decision making, effective life-skill and livelihood capacity building and policy of non-institutionalization of graduated survivors with focus on community based protection-care and assistance with access to follow-up care including family counseling (where so is appropriate). Access to mainstream services after repatriation is essential in this regard both at shelters and after reunification or community based integration.

Noting the gender discriminatory social, cultural and legal structures across the borders, we emphasize upon empowering the girls/adolescents to recover from and to be protected from gender-based violence along with changing the socio-legal context of such gender-based violence and violations.

Recognizing that justice is an inalienable right of the trafficked victim, we observe that the process of delivering justice takes time which either delays repatriation or the court proceeding is disrupted due to repatriation of the victim. In this regard, we call on the governments (including law enforcing agencies and courts across the region) to ensure continuation of court proceedings without the physical presence of the victims so that neither repatriation process is affected by legal process nor legal process is negatively impacted by repatriation.

Noting that information on victims of trafficking, traffickers and trafficking survivors (repatriated and integrated) is critical for rescue, repatriation, integration and prosecution/extradition- we call on governments and civil society organizations to systematically share information (database) in which relevant ministries, RRRI Taskforce, law enforcing agencies, border security forces and NGOs etc. need to keep each other informed based on an agreed protocol.

Along with recognizing that the expansion of cooperation and coordination between and among governments- we observe the networking among NGOs across the borders is critical in carrying out rescue, repatriation and integration of victims of trafficking. In this regard, we call on the civil society actors to ensure systematic coordination for greater cooperation and to avoid wastage of resources through duplication. At the same time we look for greater GO-NGO cooperation both within and across the national borders.

At the same time, we call upon the governments and civil society actors to work together to prevent trafficking by addressing both the supply and demand-side of the problem. Further, we call on the governments to take special measures for the child survivors of trafficking and for protecting children from the harm of trafficking.

With continual consultation, coordination and cooperation - we are confident that our concerted efforts will enable us to curb the heinous crime of human trafficking across the borders of South Asia.

This was adopted by civil societies from India, Nepal and Bangladesh in a cross boarder consultation, organized by Rights Jessore last month. To know more about it email: rightsjessore@yahoo.com.

-From Law Desk.





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