Juba Discussion Forum Brings Spotlight To Trafficking And Smuggling On International Migrants Day

On International Migrants Day, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Association in South Sudan held a discussion forum on the theme of migration with dignity.

JUBA, 28 December 2018 [Gurtong]- The aim of the event was to raise awareness, particularly with local civil society organizations in Juba, on the issue of trafficking in persons and human smuggling in conflict, post-conflict, natural hazards and other crisis settings, with a focus on the situation in South Sudan.

Not only a country of origin, South Sudan is a destination for many migrants and a transit country, as it can be part of the route towards Northern Africa. The country hosts an estimated over 845,000 migrants (2017 International Migration Report); the majority of whom are from the East and Horn of Africa and are often travelling irregularly.

In crisis situations, trafficking remains largely overlooked and difficult to identify. The vulnerability of communities to trafficking and exploitation exponentially increases when livelihoods, previously existing support networks, the protection of rule of law and other fundamental social and economic systems are disrupted. These same factors also foster an environment conducive to smuggling.

As representatives of governments working closely with IOM on dignified and safe migration management, Mitsuhiro Toyama, Deputy Ambassador of Japan to South Sudan, and Alexandra Hilal Guhr, Head of Development Cooperation, Deputy Head of German Mission in South Sudan, provided opening remarks to steer the dialogue. 

In her opening remarks, Alexandra Hilal Guhr, Chargée d’Affaires from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, explained the broad range of human trafficking. Guhr said

“Trafficking of human beings can take on many forms: forced labour or forced begging, forced marriage, the recruitment and use of child soldiers as well as inter-ethnic abductions. Women and girls, particularly those from rural areas or who are internally displaced, are vulnerable to domestic servitude throughout the country. Some of these women and girls are sexually abused or are forced to engage in commercial sex acts.”

Furthermore, the German Chargée d’Affaires said that “to address the problem of human trafficking and migrant smuggling, it is essential not only to enact but also to implement a regulatory framework that 1) enables safe and dignified migration, 2) prioritizes the respect of human rights and 3) ensures that smugglers and human traffickers are held accountable for abuses inflicted on the victims. Germany is committed to supporting such efforts in South Sudan and on a global level.”

The discussion forum was made possible through funding from the Better Migration Management Programme (BMM). BMM is a regional, multi-year, multi-partner programme co-funded by the EU Trust Fund for Africa and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). BMM aims to provide capacity building to improve migration management, particularly to prevent and address irregular migration, including smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons.

“A key implementing partner of the Better Migration Management Programme, IOM is also an organization with dignity at the core of its mission,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission, speaking at the event. “All over the world, IOM works to support, protect and assist migrants, refugees and internally displaced people. Treating all migrants – regardless of their status - with dignity is fundamental to our work and so should it be to any organization or government body working to manage migration or simply interacting with migrants,” added Chauzy.

IOM’s migration management programme coordinator in South Sudan, Isaac Munyae, set the scene for the discussion forum by highlighting what trafficking and smuggling are and how they differ from each other. He explained the situation globally as well as in South Sudan. Following that, he was joined by Edmund Yekani, Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) and Emilio Choko, Programme Coordinator from UN Youth South Sudan, for a panel discussion on migration with dignity. The discussion was moderated by Sheila Poni, a Journalist with Radio One and member of the UN Association in South Sudan.
“In South Sudan, it is real issue, but people don’t want to talk about it. I am glad we are having this discussion today. However, we should not just care when it is International Migrants Day, we should keep the conversation going throughout the year and make sure real action to protect vulnerable people is taken,” said CEPO Executive Director Yekani.

When the discussion was opened to the floor, audiences shared their thoughts on how smuggling and trafficking is affecting people in South Sudan.

In South Sudan, IOM has been supporting stranded migrants to return home both into and out of the country, some of whom have been victims of smuggling and exploitation. To help counter trafficking, IOM is currently supporting a mapping of trafficking work currently being carried out in the country. Throughout 2019 and depending on funding, IOM in South Sudan will continue to develop its programming to assist and protect victims of smuggling, trafficking and exploitation. 
With funding from Japan, IOM has been closely working with the Government of South Sudan to build migration management capacities; improve infrastructure in immigration offices; develop a national migration policy; strengthen interagency cooperation among border agencies; and enhance cross-border cooperation and regional integration.

“I know that today’s event is only the start of a much longer conversation, but I am happy we are taking such an important step on this complex issue,” concluded IOM Chief of Mission Chauzy.

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