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Crisis could lead to spike in exploitation, trafficking: UN

German grant to fund development of a plan for Mekong region countries to protect vulnerable groups during the economic downturn.

FUNDS FROM GERMANY

German diplomat Hans Heinrich Schumacher called human trafficking "an international scourge" that affects both rich and poor countries. "The smuggled migrants who endure unimaginable hardship ... must be better protected," he said. 

THE United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) is planning an effort designed to prepare countries including Cambodia for "a predicted increase in exploitation and human trafficking" stemming from the global economic crisis, according to a press release distributed Sunday.

The effort, funded by a German grant worth €130,000 (US$168,070), will begin with an investigation into the effects of the crisis on child labour, exploitative conditions and migration.  

The results of the investigation will be used to inform the development of "a regional action plan to reduce the negative impacts" of the crisis on vulnerable groups, including migrant workers and rural families, the release states.

"Historical evidence of increases in unsafe labour migration during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 sets a concerning precedent as current levels of employment drop," said Gwi-Yeop Son, a UN resident representative in Thailand.

The threat of the crisis

According to the press release, employers working "under the pressure of reduced profit margins" are far more likely to "exploit desperate families and communities", creating situations in which "the trade in human lives can flourish".

UNIAP Regional Project Manager Matt Friedman said the current economic situation warranted immediate action.  

"To prevent exploitation from following the present global financial trend, we need to act now," he said. 

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