Authorities in the Philippines must strengthen their efforts in combating human trafficking if they are to succeed in eliminating the brutal practice and protect the rights of those affected, a United Nations independent human rights expert warned Tuesday.
"Root causes of trafficking, particularly poverty and demands for cheap and exploitative labour are not being effectively addressed," the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, cautioned in a news release following her visit to the Asian country.
"This has perpetuated the abuse of human rights of Filipinos abroad, as well as in the country, who are exposed to exploitation and extortion by brokers, employers and the law enforcement agents," Ezeilo added.
According to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council - which appoints independent experts, or special rapporteurs, to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme - human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity, transgressing national boundaries and victimizing millions of women, children and men around the world.
Ezeilo's five-day visit to the Philippines - which saw her make stops in the capital, Manila, as well as the areas of Cebu and Zamboanga, where she urged local authorities to build upon the progress made in addressing the problem of trafficking - was the first trip made by an independent expert to the island nation.
The UN expert pointed out that the Philippines is "undoubtedly" a source country for human trafficking with its citizens being trafficked in different parts of the world, primarily due to the socio-economic conditions prevailing in different parts of the country. These include growing poverty, youth unemployment and gender inequalities as well as discrimination and gender-based violence.
"Measures to prevent trafficking will not be effective or sustainable unless the underlying social, economic, and political factors that create an environment conducive to trafficking are addressed," stated Ezeilo, noting that human trafficking was "a dynamic process caused by an array of complex and intertwined 'push' and 'pull' factors."
"The prevention of trafficking in persons requires truly concerted and collaborative efforts by all stakeholders," she added.
The Special Rapporteur's findings and recommendations will be presented in a report to the next session of the Human Rights Council.