Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose.
Every year, millions of men, women, and children worldwide’ including in Pakistan’ become victims of human trafficking.
Today remittances of Pakistani expatriates hover around US$ 13-14 billion which accounts for almost 7 per cent of the GDP and nearly 60% of the total tax revenue generated in Pakistan. Thus foreign remittances apart from being the mainstay zof the Pakistan economy are also subsidizing the social security net in the country. It is estimated that almost 60,0000 Pakistanis go abroad every year for employment through Recruiting and Employment agencies licensed by the government and the Overseas Employment Corporation (OEC) established in the public sector in 1976.
That is of course the brighter facade of the phenomenon of economic migration. There is another side to it, a much darker and the most painful aspect of the lure and craze for seeking jobs abroad. Presently there are 1500 recruiting agencies in the country, mostly owned and patronized by the elite, politicians and bureaucrats. The job seekers going through them are almost swindled by them. Although these agencies are supposed to get commission from employers on every individual supplied by them, yet they charge exorbitant amounts from the selected persons. The poor souls have to sell their valuables and whatever possession that they have to meet their demands. Then they are fleeced by having to pay for visa because of the visa box system in vogue and almost every worker has to pay Rs.50,000 for that.
The most sordid fall out and collateral social tragedy of the phenomenon of economic migration is the emergence of the most detestable pursuit of human trafficking. The fraudsters and unscrupulous elements within the society have destroyed many families by taking huge sums of money for facilitating their potential bread earners to go to European and other countries and vanishing with the accumulated money.
Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs
In certain cases the job seekers had to meet tragic deaths while undertaking sojourn to the foreign lands through illegal means including sneaking through borders or traveling by boats which have met horrible accidents. In cases where they have managed to reach their destinations, most of them have had to bear the brunt of the law and are in jails for entering the country illegally. More than ten thousand are languishing in jails in Middle Eastern and European countries. Nearly ten thousand Pakistanis are in Germany as asylum seekers. Majority of them were smuggled into the country through former Soviet Union and Poland by the human traffickers. The ordeal and agony they went through during their journeys would fill volumes of harrowing stories. I gained first hand knowledge about it while posted in Pakistan Embassy in Berlin. Some of them are there for nearly a decade to the chagrin and grief of the families back home. Besides the sufferings of the victims, the problem also brings bad name to the country.
Unfortunately no effective measures have been taken to tackle the illegal practices of the employment promoters and human traffickers. The successive governments showed criminal apathy to the plight of the poor masses and even the media has not given much attention to this subject. I am of the considered view that this issue can be effectively tackled through educating the masses about the perils of relying on the unscrupulous and unauthorized elements for seeking jobs abroad, through concerted efforts at the official level through media. The media itself needs to highlight the issue by giving it due attention.On the administrative side, the government must cancel the licences of all the employment promoters in the private sector and entrust the responsibility of sending Pakistani workers to the international job markets to Overseas Employment Corporation. It should have the monopoly in this regard like it has been doing exclusively in case of export of manpower to Korea since 2008. If the Pakistani expatriates are bringing valuable foreign exchange for the country, it is also obligatory on the state and government to protect the would-be job seekers from the clutches of the elements who are exploiting the circumstances to their advantage at the expense of the poor people.