Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Stop human trafficking

Daily News

The Government is taking firm steps to clamp down human trafficking that is bringing a bad name to the country. In pursuance of this, immigration authorities are to set up anti-trafficking cells at the BIA to nab possible human traffickers and also their victims.

Sri Lanka being a key transit hub in the Asian region coupled with its relaxed visa regulations, has lent itself open to many rackets, human trafficking being one of them. Hence we should step up vigilance in our ports and the Airport to ensure that Sri Lanka’s position as a major transit hub is not exploited for nefarious activities.

Already, we have gained some degree of notoriety in this respect. According to our main story in yesterday’s edition, Sri Lanka has been identified by a US based study as a source and destination country for men and women trafficked for the purpose of involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. This certainly is a blot on the country which is known for its rich cultural heritage and Buddhist tradition.

May be these stories are exaggerated but it is also equally true that with the end of the three -decade war matters that were hidden from the public eye are now coming into sharp focus including rackets such as human trafficking which is today an international multi billion dollar industry. Hence all measures should be taken to combat this scourge and prevent the country’s reputation being sullied.

Today, international crime has expanded to several branches in which human trafficking occupies a foremost place. The increased interdependence among nations, the blurring of borders not to mention a rapidly shrinking world have drawn Sri Lanka too into the vortex of international rackets. Not very long ago we were a country teeming with notorious paedophiles who were on the run in their own countries. They would not have been here had it not been for the steady supply.

The media also highlighted numerous instances of trafficking in underaged children for the sadistic pleasure of depraved foreigners. Such elements may still be in business operating under the patronage of politicians. True, Sri Lanka is not as bad as countries such as Cambodia and other poverty stricken Asian countries where human trafficking has assumed alarming proportions.

But it is no secret that there are well organized rings with international connections who are shipping human cargo under the very eyes of certain authorities. Those who fall prey to these unscrupulous elements are mostly young women from the villages who out of poverty yield to the temptation. The lack of job opportunities have also made people take risks to get themselves out of the country paying enormous sums to these racketeers only to be stranded at the other end.

The regular detection of boats nabbed on the high seas off the Negombo coast carrying Italy bound human cargo is a typical example of this situation. Most often the human trafficking rings operate with political protection and also the help of law enforcement authorities. Hence there is a need for a sophisticated mechanism to nab these elements before further damage is done to the country’s reputation.

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