Remarks by Ms. Elsa Haile, Director, International Organization, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea during Virtual High-Level Roundtable Discussion to Commemorate the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons organized by UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa
Let me start by thanking the UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa for organizing this event.
Eritrea welcomes the convening of this event to commemorate the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Commemoration are time for reflection and an opportunity to assess how far we have gone in eradicating one of the most heinous crimes of our time. This year there is little cause for celebration as millions continue to fall prey to, and suffer in the hands, of criminals.
The interrelated crimes of migrant smuggling and human trafficking continue to pose serious challenges to human security in the Horn of Africa. Thousands of the citizens of the region, especially youth, are lured by criminal syndicates as they migrate through irregular routes and methods. They face abduction, extortion, rape, enslavement, torture and death.
Human trafficking impedes socio-economic progress, undermines the rule of law and governance, and threatens regional security. The hefty proceeds from human trafficking are more often than not used to fund other forms of transnational organized crimes, including terrorism.
In the case of Eritrea, overwhelming evidence exists about the complicity and involvement of certain countries as well as some murky associations in various countries abroad, especially in Europe, in the smuggling of Eritreans, for the political purposes of "strategic depopulation". For some, the economic spin offs associated with this enterprise is another incidental objective. The sensational propaganda of demonizing the nation to rationalize these acts and the enticement of the youth to flee the country is part and parcel of their game plan.
A case in point is UNHCR's Eligibility Guidelines on Eritrea which was prepared without any form of consultation with the Government of Eritrea. For the past decade, Eritrea has been calling on the UNHCR to rectify its eligibility criteria which classifies Eritrean economic migrants as "bonafide" refugees. UNHCR's maintenance of privileged treatment for Eritrean migrants continues to be a pull factor for irregular migration.
The Government of Eritrea is committed to fight trafficking in persons in all its manifestations. For the past decade, it has implemented a four-pronged strategy to combat and eradicate trafficking in persons and mitigate its effects on victims:
First, intensifying its efforts to achieve rapid, people-centered, and balanced socio-economic development in order to create opportunities for its citizens.
Second, deterring and combating trafficking in persons. All relevant law enforcement bodies have been working with the vigilance needed to combat trafficking. Active involvement of religious and societal leaders in planning and implementation of national policies have been very crucial. Public awareness raising programs, including at schools are regularly conducted by concerned authorities in coordination with communities. Trafficking is criminalized in the Transitional Penal Code of Eritrea (Articles 605-07). Eritrea is a state party to United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the trafficking protocol. The fight against Trafficking in Persons entails substantial human, technological and institutional resources. With the aim of enhancing its legal, institutional and technological capacities, Eritrea has signed a comprehensive partnership framework agreement with UNODC to strengthen its crime prevention and criminal justice capacities, including its ability to combat transnational organized crimes.
Third, supporting victims of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Eritrea opposes any stigmatization of victims of human trafficking and provides them with all possible assistance. Eritrean diplomatic missions and communities continue to support Eritreans to voluntarily return to their homeland, especially those stranded in the emergency and conflict situation of some countries of transit, such as Libya.
Fourth, strengthening of regional and international cooperation. Eritrea views combating and eradicating transnational organized crimes, such as trafficking in persons as integral part of its struggle to achieve durable peace and economic integration in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region.
After two decades of conflict and mistrust there is a new dawn in the Horn of Africa. In the Agreement signed in September 2018, President Isaias and Prime Minister Abyi, clearly expressed their commitment to "combat terrorism as well as trafficking in persons, arms and drugs in accordance with international covenants and conventions."
Eritrea also continue to advocate in all international fora the importance of addressing and eradicating the causes of human trafficking--extreme poverty, global inequality, the vulnerability of irregular migrants, conflicts and wars of aggression as well as sexual exploitation, cheap labor and organ harvesting.
Eritrea believes the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crimes and its protocols could play a vital role in facilitating regional and international cooperation through exchange of good practices and information, mutual legal assistance and technical support to improve state capacity in preventing and combating these heinous crimes.
However, trafficking in persons is not a law enforcement problem per se. Given the complex and multidimensional nature of the crimes of human trafficking, the importance of strengthened coordination between UN agencies in the region cannot be understated. Multiple initiatives dealing with migrant smuggling and human trafficking pose challenges. There is a need to consolidate and strengthen regional initiative in order to enable those multiple initiatives to meaningfully contribute to the betterment of human life and regional security. As the UNODC, continues its efforts to develop a regional action plan to combat trafficking in person in Eastern Africa, cross-regional coordination with other UNODC regional offices will be critical.
In conclusion, fight against human trafficking is ultimately linked to the struggle for peace, stability and socio-economic development within countries and a fairer international economic and political order. Eritrea will steadfastly continue to work with the countries in the region and beyond to combat and eradicate human trafficking.
I thank you!