Human trafficking: India
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Year-wise trends, statistics
2014-2016: Increase in both rescued as well as trafficked victims
2016: 25% rise in trafficked women, children
Thomson Reuters Foundation
Officials attribute rise to increased public awareness of trafficking-related crimes, more police training
Almost 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India in 2016, a rise of nearly 25% from the previous year, according to government data released recently.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development told Parliament that 19,223 women and children were trafficked last year against 15,448 in 2015, with the highest number of victims recorded in the eastern state of West Bengal.
Police officials attributed the rise to increased public awareness of trafficking-related crimes and more police training. “It’s difficult to claim these crimes are rising dramatically,” said a senior Delhi police official, who declined to be named. “I think more victims are coming forward and reporting because of more information about trafficking,” the official said. “Government and civil society groups are doing campaigns and people are also seeing more cases being reported in the media.”
The official said the actual figure could be much higher as many victims were still not registering cases with the police, largely because they did not know the law or feared traffickers. South Asia, with India at its centre, is one of the fastest-growing regions for human trafficking in the world. Thousands of people — largely poor, rural women and children — are lured to India’s towns and cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs, but sell them into modern day slavery.
Some end up as domestic workers, or are forced to work in small industries such as textile workshops, farming or are even pushed into brothels where they are sexually exploited. In many cases, they are not paid or are held in debt bondage. Some go missing, and their families cannot trace them.
The 2016 data from the National Crime Records Bureau showed that almost equal numbers of women and children were trafficked.
Figures showed there were 9,104 trafficked children last year — a 27% increase from the previous year. The number of women trafficked rose by 22 % to 10,119 in 2016. West Bengal — which shares a porous border with poorer neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal and is a known human trafficking hub for that reason — registered more than one-third of the total number of victims in 2016.
The desert state of Rajasthan recorded the second highest number of trafficked children in 2016, while the western state of Maharashtra, where India’s business capital Mumbai is located, showed the second highest number of trafficked women.
Many Punjabi youths, who wanted to go to Europe, are trapped in Malta.
These youths pay travel agents Rs 6-10 lakh for reaching a European country.
Once in Malta, they are asked to arrange more money if they want to go to other European nations.
CHANDIGARH: Fired by the prospect of changing his fortunes in Germany, Tarsem Singh, 24, a native of Banga village in Nawanshahr district of Punjab, embarked on a life-changing voyage, only to land in a quagmire-like situation. All set for a new life in Germany, he was taken to Libya by travel agents and then dumped in Malta.
After spending nearly a month on the streets of Valletta, he is now sharing bed space with six other Punjabi youths in an illegally constructed room at a construction site in Gozo Island, Malta. He has no permanent job and is forced to undertake menial jobs to survive. He wonders now why did he ever leave home. "I want to return to my village in Punjab but I have no money. My tourist visa has expired and I am afraid to go to the airport as I can be arrested anytime. I had boarded a flight to Frankfurt (Germany) but I don't know how I landed in Tripoli (Libya). Then I reached Malta after crossing jungles and THE Mediterranean Sea with a Libyan agent," said Singh. "The Libyan agent is also here in Malta. He wants Rs 2 lakh more to send me to Italy, but my father has already sold his one-acre land to pay Rs 6 lakh to send me abroad. The agent is forcing me to go to Syria to work in an arms factory but I do not want that. I plan to cross the sea to reach Italy soon." Singh is one among dozens of Punjabi youths trapped in Malta, who have paid Punjab-based travel agents anything between Rs 6 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, for reaching a European country .
"It is a huge industry. They are paying human traffickers thousands of Euros to smuggle them to Europe. They are promised lucrative jobs, but on reaching Malta they literally get nothing as no one can work here on tourist visa. They have to sleep on roads and many get arrested. They are desperate to go home but are stuck in detention centres because of long bureaucratic set-up here," said Jose Michel Soler, Malta police inspector, stationed at Julien Street, where most of the illegal immigrants work on daily wages. Vince Debono, a Maltese government-registered tourist guide for over 25 years and has come across many such illegal Punjabi immigrants."Malta is a small country with limited numbers of jobs, but in most cases it is never their (Punjabi illegal immigrants) final destination. It is only the gateway to mainland Europe. They end up here because of ship breakdown or are forcibly left here by crooked travel agents tipped off about cops following them." "But we have seen a dip in illegal youths coming to Malta because of change of rules. Once they are caught in Malta, they aren't allowed to move further into Europe. They will be lodged in detention centres for months and deported to their countries after proper verification. So it is waste of their time, money and efforts," points out Debono.
Treacherous route through jungles & sea
According to the Malta police, most of the illegal Punjabi youths come from the Mediterranean Sea.
"From Delhi, they reach Tripoli, then cross the borders through treacherous jungles and reach Tunis. From there they board ships or boats to reach Sicily (Italy) and in some cases Malta. This journey takes around two to three months. Many lives are lost during this; such cases go unreported," says Soler.
Meanwhile a Punjab-based NGO HelpingHapless, which is working for Punjabi youths stuck abroad and has so far brought over 100 youths back to Punjab, is trying to contact youths languishing in Malta.
"Owing to its easy connectivity with big European countries, many unscrupulous agents are using this route for human trafficking. I currently know cases of two Punjabi youths stuck in Malta. They are in a pitiable condition and want to come back. Many Punjabi youths are stuck there, but we do not have any way to contact them," said Amanjot Kaur Ramoowalia, co-founder of an NGO, HelpingHapless.
Human trafficking: India