Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Human Trafficking: Smuggling and trafficking of Somalis must stop

UN - The smuggling and trafficking in innocent Somalis must end, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today, expressing deep shock over the recent boat disaster in the Gulf of Aden that resulted in the death of 11 people, while another 34 are still missing.

Last week, survivors found on Somali beaches explained that their boat, crewed by three smugglers and carrying 58 passengers, had set sail for Yemen. They also recounted to local authorities how smugglers forced 22 passengers overboard soon after the engine failed, according to a news release issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Smuggling and trafficking in persons in Somalia has been a sad facet of the Somali conflict,” said UN Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari. “Such tragedy highlights the critical need to find a lasting and sustainable peace in Somalia so that people can live in a decent manner at home and are not forced to flee constantly their country to save their lives.”

The conditions endured by Somalis who are smuggled by boat are strenuous and painful. In his report to the Human Rights Council in 2009, Mr. Bari described that hundreds of people are squeezed into small boats that can easily capsize, and must survive a choppy ride that lasts on average 36 hours without food or water, and without very limited movement. Many times passengers develop skin diseases during the trip, and they run the risk of being thrown overboard by smugglers who fear getting caught.

“I offer my heartfelt condolences and my grievances to the deceased families and of those injured and who are suffering from skin burns caused by fuel inside the boat,” Mr. Bari said.

Mr. Bari also expressed his concern over recent reports about the violence faced by Somalis at the hands of the local population in transit countries, and urged Somali authorities at the national and sub-national level to work in close cooperation with the international community and the UN to end this issue.

In addition, he called on the international community to strengthen the capacity of the Somali authorities, and stressed that the London Conference on Somalia scheduled for 23 February would be a good opportunity for them to address smuggling and trafficking in the country.

“The upcoming London Conference will focus the world’s attention on Somalia,” Mr. Bari noted. “As we try to address the suffering of Somalis inside the country, I would like to remind all transit and host countries of their legal and humanitarian obligation to guarantee the safety and dignity of Somali refugees.”