800,000 people are enslaved worldwide
This was stated by Enrico Ponziani, director of the Moscow branch of the International Migration Organisation, at a press conference at RIA Novosti (Russian Information Agency) timed to coincide with the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, observed every year on 2 December.
The project organisers have been working closely with the Russian law enforcement agencies. The ministry of the interior of the Russian Federation had been the source of information about twenty two percent of the victims coerced into the slave labour. Russian NGOs made it possible to help another twelve percent. Five percent of the notifications came from those staffing the hot line which was set up as part of the project. Furthermore, a rehabilitation centre was opened in the capital for people who had been taken into slavery. From 2006 help was given to 400 victims. They have now returned to their places of origin. He observed that in comparison with the nineties the situation as regards people trafficking in Russia had improved. In his opinion this was connected with the stabilisation of the Russian economy. Thanks to this there were fewer people making efforts to find work abroad so that the number falling into the hands of criminals had diminished.
Ponziani said that slavery was not a relic of the past but existed today in modern form. Included in the term were sexual exploitation, forced labour, trafficking in children and illegal organ transplantation. He said that many women from Eastern Europe are forced into prostitution, there is trade in children between African states, and men are subjected to forced labour in Brazilian plantations. Ponziani said that the project on prevention of people trafficking in the Russian Federation initiated by his organisation was coming to an end. Implementation had started in 2006 and the governments of the USA, Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden had financed the project. It covered three regions: the Moscow and Astrakhan oblasts and the Republic of Karelia.
One of the goals of the project was to improve Russian legislation in the area of people trafficking. However he said that no new laws capable of resolving the problem had been enacted in Russia during the implementation period. Nevertheless, the problem of the lack of legislation is not confined to Russia. It is an international one. Since people trafficking is a cross border crime it is essential to co-ordinate legislative initiatives at international level, said Ponziani. He noted the positive outcome of cooperation with the Russian law enforcement agencies during the period of the project. Study visits were organised for ministry of interior staff to Western Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States for the purpose of exchanging information with colleagues abroad.