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Statement of the Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN, Ambassador Mr. M. Spinellis at the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the appraisal of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

STATEMENT
High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the appraisal of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons

Mr. President,

Greece aligns itself with the statement delivered earlier by the European Union, Additionally, I would like to make a few remarks in my national capacity.

Trafficking in persons ranks among the hideous crimes of our time. This form of modern slavery isn’t just a direct affront to human dignity, but also a gross violation of the fundamental values of our society. According to the 2012 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking, persons from at least 136 nations were victims of trafficking in 118 countries around the world. Although exact numbers cannot be verified, estimates bring the number of trafficking victims to millions worldwide. In view of the magnitude, prevention of this international crime and punishment of its perpetrators requires a joint and concerted action by the international community.

This high level meeting has offered us an excellent opportunity to reaffirm our will to deal with this phenomenon. As previous speakers have pointed out, enhancement of international cooperation at all levels is indispensable in order to prevent further deterioration of the situation. Assessing the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and addressing its shortcomings and future challenges, as well as the implementation of existing legal instruments is key to a result-oriented approach. The ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons by no less than 154 countries and its implementation represent one of the most effective tools in this fight.

Greece reaffirms its steadfast commitment to combat human trafficking, prosecute its perpetrators and protect the victims of these heinous acts. Over the last ten years, my country has faced an unprecedented wave of illegal immigration, which serves as a channel exploited by organised criminal gangs in order to traffic people through and to Greece. Smuggling illegal migrants, forced labour and trafficking for sexual exploitation are, more often than not, interconnected crimes and we need to tackle them in a coordinated way in order to achieve long-lasting results.

The Greek Government, in close cooperation with local institutions and the civil society is implementing a comprehensive National Action Plan, based on a victim-centred approach. In line with the EU Strategy for the eradication of trafficking and the Directive 2011/36, Greece is actively engaged in reinforcing its legal and operational framework, focusing on the three pillars of prevention, protection and prosecution, through extensive regional and international cooperation. Improving the collection and procession of reliable and disaggregated statistics, harmonizing the criteria for victim identification through common guidelines, continuous training of field professionals and health care providers, increasing the conviction rate, raising awareness on the ‘demand’ side of the problem and creating a corporate social responsibility platform of ‘zero tolerance’ are only few of the aspects of this action.

At the international level, in cooperation with the International Organisation of Migration and the civil society, we are reaching out to detention centres in order to identify potential trafficking victims and provide them with legal support. Moreover, the creation of shelters, vocational training aiming at social integration or programs of voluntary repatriation aspires to a comprehensive victim approach.  

The global economic crisis has undoubtedly exacerbated the problem of trafficking. It is well known that traffickers usually target impoverished regions of the world that are subjected to harsh social and economic conditions, and take advantage of the increased vulnerability of certain groups of the population, especially women and children. The multiple ways that the crisis is mostly affecting women was the topic of a workshop organised last April in Athens by the Gender Equality Secretariat and the Norwegian Embassy.

Without a doubt, now is the time to act. A decisive and holistic approach is indispensable if we want to put this scourge behind us. Universal ratification of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol against Trafficking, as well as tackling the root causes of the phenomenon, among which poverty eradication and underdevelopment, are key actions towards this direction.

Thank you.

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