Online Only: Human rights a global issue

By Caeli Hann

The Department of Political Science and Latin American Research Centre will be hosting the event Payoke: Pioneering in the Fight Against Human Trafficking on Nov. 17. Patsy Sarensen, founder and director of the non-governmental organization Payoke, is also a member of the European Union Experts Group on Human Trafficking. She founded Payoke in 1988 to provide psychological, administrative and legal aid to victims of human trafficking and to combat all forms of forced prostitution.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the exploitation of human beings for revenue through sex, forced labour and human organs and believes it is a major concern because it is becoming increasingly present in UN peacekeeping environments.

Although Payoke was founded in Antwerp, Belgium, human trafficking is a global issue. An RCMP estimate projected that over 800 victims of human trafficking are brought to Canada each year, according to the CBC.

Canada ratified the United Nations Palermo Protocol to “prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons” in 2002. In 2007, British Columbia established the Office to Combat Trafficking of Persons after the U.S. state department singled out Vancouver as a port city of major concern for this extreme violation of human rights.

University of British Columbia law faculty assistant professor Benjamin Perrin has been researching human trafficking in Canada for the past eight years. He found that many victims will not bring themselves forward due to the trafficker’s use of threats, violence and coercion. NGOs that are working with the victims do not have confidence that immigration officials will deal with their cases fairly.

A national plan to deal with human trafficking must be created, claimed Perrin. Payoke has been working with national and international organizations to raise awareness and to exchange information on human trafficking in hopes that more countries will acknowledge this violation of human rights and act accordingly.

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