Time: 31 March, 2020
- Collaboration marks breakthrough in war on ‘heinous practice,’ says human rights watchdog
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has stepped up its fight against people trafficking with the launch of a government initiative described as a “milestone” in international efforts to stamp out the practice.
The National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking’s National Referral Mechanism helps combat people trafficking by outlining best practice for handling individual cases. It also details coordinated roles and responsibilities for relevant authorities in the Kingdom.
The framework has been launched in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Organization of Migration (IOM).
Government officials will be able to coordinate efforts to prevent trafficking, protect victims or potential victims in the Kingdom, and investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators through the framework.
The National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT), together with the UNODC and IOM, has begun training members of the national anti-trafficking team to identify, refer and protect potential victims.
Key staff, including labor inspectors, health professionals and civil society representatives, will learn new skills to help spot warning signs of human trafficking and develop operating procedures to guide response staff.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak, the government is working closely with all parties to ensure that training takes place through the use of teleconferencing.
“The fact that the program continues even during the pandemic shows the commitment and determination of the Kingdom to improve the national response to people trafficking,” Hatem Aly, UNODC’s Gulf regional representative, said. “It is our pleasure and duty to partner with the NCCHT to help implement these important national reforms.”
Mohammed El-Zarkani, IOM Bahrain’s chief of mission, said: “The launch of the National Referral Mechanism is a milestone in the fight against human trafficking.
“We are working simultaneously with a leading UNODC program focusing on partnership, prosecution and data management. The international collaboration is a welcome and timely step against trafficking.”
The framework coincides with the launch of an anonymous digital reporting service, embedded in the NCCHT website, that will allow people to provide information on possible human-trafficking violations in the Kingdom. The referral service will be expanded to include a 24/7 hotline and mobile application, both now under development.
“Human trafficking is an affront to the dignity of all humanity,” said Awwad Al-Awwad, chair of the NCCHT and president of the Human Rights Commission. “It is our duty to eradicate this heinous practice and the launch of the National Referral Mechanism is a major step to that end.
“The mechanism will be complemented by additional human rights reforms which will further improve the quality of life of all citizens and residents of the Kingdom,” he added.