(WNN/UNOHCHR) United Nations, Geneva, SWITZERLAND, WESTERN EUROPE: “Yes Seychelles is an island but not an island out of reach of traffickers and their nefarious activities in today’s globalised world,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, warned* on Friday at the end of her first official visit to the country.
“Trafficking in persons in Seychelles is at best insidious and remains hidden as a result of lack of awareness,” said the independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims.
“The potential scale of the problem of trafficking in persons in the country, its trends and scope appears to be underestimated or unknown, and needs to be further investigated by the Government and law enforcement agencies,” she stressed.
The scarcely populated island has a large influx of both tourists and migrant workers. Anecdotal evidence suggest that trafficking in persons happens and that Seychelles may increasingly become a destination country for both trafficking for sexual exploitation, especially of girls from Eastern Europe, and also for labour exploitation of migrant workers from India, China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Kenya, Madagascar and others.
“The political commitment to end human trafficking clearly exists in Seychelles,” Ms. Ezeilo said. She noted, among other things, the country’s ratification of key international conventions and the creation of the National Anti-Trafficking Committee.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed the commitment to fight this phenomenon and ensure that it does not take root in Seychelles expressed to her by the President of Seychelles, James Alix Michel, during an official meeting.
“However”, she said, “the immediate concern is the absence of a legal and policy framework to prevent and combat trafficking in persons.” The expert expressed regret that the Government was yet to criminalize trafficking in persons as required by article 7 of the Palermo Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, to which Seychelles is a state party.
“I am concerned that in critical sectors of the economy, such as tourism and fisheries, the government is yet to put in place measures that will discourage sex tourism, child prostitution and trafficking in persons for labour exploitation,” Ms. Ezeilo added.
The human rights expert urged the Government to fast-track the draft anti-trafficking bill to fulfil its international obligations, and establish a National Action Plan to combat trafficking based on a human rights and victim-centred approach.
The Special Rapporteur highlighted the need to collect data on trends, forms and manifestations of trafficking, its causes and consequences. “This survey should be carried out in collaboration with research institutions and in close cooperation with international, civil society and faith-based organizations,” she specified.
“Seychelles also needs to assess technical assistance towards building the capacity of its frontline officers, including police, immigration officers, labour Inspectors and prosecutors, to help them identify possible victims of trafficking, carry out necessary investigation and prosecute the criminals involved,” she said.
The Special Rapporteur called for a more effective and adequately funded National Human Rights Commission, in accordance with the Paris Principles. She also urged the Government to ratify without delay relevant International Labour Organization Conventions against forced labour and exploitation, especially the recent ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
“I want to reinforce the call made during the Universal Periodic Review of Seychelles at the Human Rights Council in Geneva urging the government to adopt and implement measures to protect women and children from domestic violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking in persons,” the expert added.