Vienna, 16 October 2007 - "Human trafficking has many dreadful faces. 80% of the victims are women and children. It is they who suffer the most from this modern form of exploitation and abuse. Human trafficking is one of the most severe violations of fundamental human rights and a disregard of human dignity", stressed Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik at the opening of today’s conference together with Justice Minister Maria Berger, Minister of Women’s Issues Doris Bures and Interior Minister Günther Platter. On the occasion of the EU Day Against Human Trafficking, which will be celebrated for the first time on 18 October, the Foreign Ministry hosted this event, titled "United Against Human Trafficking".
"Today’s event is a premiere: the fact that four government members have gathered to address this issue together shows not only the complexity of the problem, but also the willingness for a joint engagement", continued the Minister, who pointed out to the National Action Plan against Human Trafficking that was jointly endorsed in March 2007. "The objective is also to draw public attention to this often little recognized and weakly perceived human rights violation. Everyone is called upon to contribute to the fight against human trafficking."
"No country is immune against human trafficking. As a result of its position in the centre of Europe, Austria is also directly affected. There is no reason for complacency, but for efforts to achieve concrete improvements", stressed Plassnik. She added that the Austrian "Task Force on Human Trafficking" directed by the Foreign Ministry plays a central role as an "important networking instrument" between ministries, authorities, provincial governments, and NGOs.
Plassnik stressed the importance of targeted international and European cooperation in this area. Being the host city of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna assumes a special networking function. For instance, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime will organize the "Vienna Forum" against human trafficking in February 2008, aiming to develop concrete ideas at an international level on how to effectively prevent trafficking in human beings. Austria was also the first EU Member State to endorse and implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in October 2006. Moreover, it is necessary to cooperate with so-called risk countries that serve as the starting point for smugglers of migrants. The Austrian representations and consulates in these countries are instructed to inform groups of persons particularly at risk on the possible threats, on the legal situation in Austria, and on help hotlines.
"In the future, we must make better use of this potential in our interministerial cooperation at a European level as well", explained the Foreign Minister. Therefore, at yesterday’s EU Foreign Minister Council the Minister proposed a joint meeting between the Foreign and Interior Ministers to address the topic of crisis management and disaster relief. "The fight against human trafficking also demands a better bundling of our efforts and possibilities at a European level and therefore - just as migration and asylum - constitutes a set of problems that will have to be dealt with jointly. We need to act together on this", concluded Plassnik.
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