ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – As World Day against Trafficking in Persons was observed on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) warned that human trafficking in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region remains “a constant and real threat.”
“It occurs in peacetime and is exacerbated during conflict and post-crises,” read a statement by IOM, which works closely with Iraq’s federal government, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the United Nations, and aid organizations to try to coordinate the safe and stable return home of the displaced.
“Many individuals and communities are vulnerable to human traffickers and migrant smugglers; these risks impact those communities affected by the conflict with [the Islamic State] as well as migrants who have been trafficked into Iraq or are in irregular situations.”
In June, IOM organized a technical workshop with Iraq’s Ministry of Interior and other criminal justice actors to develop a system “to identify, refer and assist victims of trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) using the community policing approach.”
IOM also conducts various other counter-trafficking initiatives and “provides comprehensive assistance to victims of trafficking, including items such as clothes and dignity kits, emergency cash assistance and services (legal, psychosocial and medical assistance, or assisted voluntary return and reintegration – either directly or through partners).”
On Sunday, A Baghdad-based anti-human trafficking organization released a report detailing multiple instances of the practice committed by 27 different underground networks it says operate in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
The report read, “Victims of trafficking, both female and male, are exposed to many types of sexual violence during the trafficking experience - whatever type of exploitation they are exposed to.”
Iraq’s 2012 Human Trafficking Law mandates criminal penalties for those found guilty of “recruiting, transporting, housing, or receiving individuals by force, threat to use force, or other means, including by coercion, kidnapping, fraud, deception, misuse of power, exchange of money, or privileges to an influential person in order to sell and exploit the trafficked individuals by means of prostitution, sexual abuse, unpaid labor, forced labor, enslavement, beggary, trading of human organs, [and] medical experimentation.”
The legislation also outlaws other workplace practices common in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, such as the confiscation by employers of workers’ identity or travel documents, including passports of foreign workers, because of the unfair leverage it gives employers over workers who often come from vulnerable populations.