CAIRO: The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement (SMWIPM) is hosting two international experts on human trafficking in Cairo to train police officers and raise their awareness about the issue.
The visit is within the framework of the implementation of the National Plan of Action Against Human Trafficking by the SMWIPM in cooperation with Microsoft.
Guillermo Galarza Abizaid, program director at the US-based International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) and one of the experts offering training to Ministry of Interior officers at the Mubarak Police Academy, spoke of the use of the internet as a powerful tool in human trafficking at a roundtable discussion held last week.
“We know the world wide web is a sophisticated tool which changes how we communicate, exchange messages and images, it also opened a way for trafficking groups, sex offenders to abuse children,” he said, pointing out that it is the second most profitable business in the world.
“Child pornography on the internet is a global problems as victims are getting younger, abuse is getting obscene and offenders are getting away with it,” he said.
“They are looking for children who post information online and intimate pictures, we are working on awareness of parents,” he added.
One of the key challenges they are facing is the lack of statistics, which in turn means that countries don’t employ enough manpower to fight the problem.
“It’s an organized crime with incredible financial gain and law enforcers are not equipped to reach them due to lack of resources,” Abizaid continued.
ICMEC is the leading global service agency working to reach them, its core functions is to reach out to countries interested in fighting trafficking and it’s a global financial coalition to eradicate commercial child pornography and advocate changes in laws and form treaties. So far they have trained over 3,700 law enforcers all over the world, which included prosecutors and judges.
Detective Sergeant from the Interpol, Mick Moran, who is an expert on child offenders on the internet, and who is also training Egyptian officers, said that one of the problems in Egypt is that they perceive human trafficking as a western disease.
“Reality is it exists in all societies and has been since the beginning of time but we are now becoming more aware,” he said, pointing out that in his home country Ireland they looked into the problem when people created motivation for politicians and raising the issue in the media.
“[People] have to show leadership on this difficult issue as the battle continues, awareness is what fights it,” Moran noted.
“Police have to start [by being] victim-centered which is difficult because we’re focused on catching the bad guy,” he said, adding that “we need to start thinking in terms of prevention rather than prosecution.”
Prevention is crucial as the victim is often complacent in the trafficking, Moran noted.
“State security is highly threatened by human trafficking because the roots created by child and human trafficking is later used by drug and army smugglers,” he explained.
Moran said that there is a difference between smuggling and trafficking, which is the relationship between the victims and the smuggler or trafficker. If it ends at the destination country then it is smuggling, but if it continues at the destination country this is trafficking, he explained.
Moran said that in order to make a difference, the government, civil society and the private sector need to tackle three issues: prevention, prosecution and protection, awareness.
Nagwa Shoeb, director general of the SMWIPM, said the movement is actively involved in the fight against human trafficking in an effort to create safe and secure communities, protect women and children and high risk groups against violence.
“Human trafficking is a horrific crime in which there is a great deal of exploitation to not only the poor and marginalized but others who are deceived,” she continued.
SMWIPM is partnering with the business community in its campaign against human trafficking. “Their responsibilities will be to look at their own business and make sure there is no form of labor trafficking, provide shelter to the victims, re-integrate victims in society and promote awareness,” explained Shoeb.
She pointed out that when the First Lady spoke about human trafficking in Egypt, many denied the problem existed in Egypt.
“Each country has its own particulars, we need to understand the kind of human trafficking that exists and the vulnerable places,” she said, pointing out that for example selling young women for marriage is a form of trafficking.
Shoeb also spoke about the risks of the internet. “We need to protect young people from abuse on the internet as it has become a powerful tool in human trafficking,” she said.
Shoeb concluded the discussion by quoting the Suzanne Mubarak’s address at the Luxor International Forum held in December, “I recognize that the war against human trafficking may not be won tomorrow or next year – there is no timetable, but I do believe that we will succeed in the long-term.”