David Blackburn

The world over, people trafficking is the result of not addressing illegal immigration

The world over, people trafficking is the result of not addressing illegal immigration
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The journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee describe their experiences in North Korea in an article in the Times. I urge Coffee Housers to read it, but I was struck by the story that brought them to the Tumen River.

‘We wanted to raise awareness about the harsh reality facing North Korean defectors who, because of their illegal status in China, live in terror of being sent back to their homeland.

Most of the North Koreans we spoke to said that they were fleeing poverty and food shortages. One girl in her early 20s said she had been told she could find work in the computer industry in China. After being smuggled across the Tumen River, she found herself working with computers, but not in the way she had expected. She became one of a growing number of North Korean women who are being used as internet sex workers, undressing for online clients on streaming video. But they all agreed that their lives in China, while stark, were better than what they had left behind in North Korea.’

Illegal migrants being trafficked by organised criminals is a global problem. The US State Department estimates 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 70 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. And in 2000, UNESCO reported that as many as 500,000 illegal migrants from Central and Eastern Europe working in prostitution in the EU alone.

The human plight of migrants has to be balanced with the need to control immigration. Action is required but illegal immigration remains taboo – the UN is swamped by allegations that some of its peacekeepers are involved in trafficking; and, in this country, both the government and the opposition have said precious little on the subject. Domestic initiatives on targeting organised crime should be intensified; but, global co-operation on border control, such as those included in Libya and the UK diplomatic agreements, needs to become much more widespread if this sickening humanitarian problem is to be arrested, and that will require talking about it.