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Thu 1 Nov 2007 04:00 AM

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Ask the expert: Dr Guy Sadler

Dr Guy Sadler of Boartes Strategic Services examines what steps are being taken in the Middle East to combat the illicit trade in human trafficking.

Question:What steps are being taken to combat human trafficking?

Expert:Dr Guy Sadler
Boartes Strategic Services

Widely reviled as ‘modern day slavery', human trafficking is a crime the logistics industry can be equipped to counter. Business is increasingly being called upon to play more than just a philanthropic role in the fight against human trafficking and people smuggling. The logistics industry is placed at the front line of this battle, with the dubious distinction of often being unwittingly implicated in the practice - a fact that can have a potentially devastating effect on a company's reputation.

The logistics industry is an almost unique position, often becoming the primary conduit between the criminal underworld and the legitimate commercial sector. Shipping firms of all sizes would seem well-advised to invest in the security of their business and support initiatives that enjoy the support of organisations including the United Nations, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Supporting this notion, are programmes such as the UN Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking, launched in March 2007. Aided by the financial support of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the initiative identified strengthened partnerships with the private sector as one its ten key goals.

It is easy to see why such efforts have been made to include the private sector in campaigns. Human trafficking is a vast global commercial business. The US government estimates that up to one million people are trafficked internationally every year, while the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates the annual total market value of illicit human trafficking at US$32 billion.

This includes both the initial ‘sale' of individuals and the estimated profits from the associated activities derived from the victims. The ILO estimates 12.3 million people are in forced labour around the world as a result of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is one of the mainstays of organised crime. It is often closely linked with narcotics and arms trafficking, money laundering, prostitution and increasingly to illicit sales of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) production components or materials.

The reason for this is simple: once a smuggling route is successful, it can be used to transport almost any illicit products. It is also reported that some drug smuggling cartels are transferring their illegal efforts to human trafficking due to the lower risk associated with this crime.

The increasingly entrepreneurial and internationalised nature of organised crime is attracted to human trafficking. Profits are made either from the direct sale of transportation services (people smuggling) or derived from the human resources generated from prostitution and drug smuggling rackets (human trafficking).

With the GGC becoming a global focus for international investment, it therefore follows that the region is an increasingly attractive target to criminals. The UAE in particular is often viewed as a secure and welcoming commercial environment where the conditions that enable business to thrive can also foster the development of organised and sophisticated criminal enterprise.

According to many analysts, the pervasive crime syndicates of Europeand Asia will be drawn to the lucrative trade gateway between East and West.

Human trafficking is a problem throughout the GCC, but the UAE is a regional leader in the fight against this terrible crime. Dubai's approach to countering human trafficking spans from strategic to tactical measures that range from enhanced, intelligence-led border security managed by the customs authority to improved training for individual police officers.

The introduction of severe penalties is another deterrent that has helped spur corporate responsibility. Corporate bodies can be fined up to one million AED if their representatives, managers, or agents commit a human trafficking crime. Furthermore, the assets of a transport company are at risk of confiscation if found guilty, not to mention the implications it has reputation wise.

In light of this, logistics and shipping companies must therefore regard their investment in counter smuggling systems as a form of insurance that protects their business from embarrassing, and potentially damaging, association with crimes the world community is vehemently committed to combating.

On top of the moral obligation, in the modern, media-driven world, only those companies with strong reputations and secure, transparent processes will prosper.

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