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Anti-trafficking work suffers from poor coordination: experts

Anti-trafficking work suffers from poor coordination: experts

Siem Reap

UN official says similar missions are creating a situation in which efforts such as training are being duplicated by several NGOS.

A lack of coordination among anti-trafficking NGOs is leading to inefficiency, as police officers increasingly report having received the same training from different organisations, a UN official said Wednesday at a workshop for anti-trafficking organisations in Siem Reap.

"You could find 10 organisations giving the same training to the same group of people," Matt Friedman, regional project manager of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (UNIAP), said during the second day of the three-day workshop.

"In other sectors, like HIV/AIDS, organisations have been working together for years. There's no reason why we can't harmonise in trafficking," he added.  

Many participants at the workshop, which concludes today, echoed the call for improved communication among different agencies in the field.

"There's a need for coordination and collaboration between all organisations that are conducting any training to law enforcement," Patrick Stayton, field office director with the International Justice Mission (IJM), an organisation that trains Cambodian police in anti-trafficking techniques and assists them in operations, told the Post.

 "There needs to be a clear and consistent message and better sharing of information, so that everyone's not hitting the same locations and officers, so there's no duplication."

He added, "Because of the transnational nature of trafficking, it's not a static crime. It's something that moves across borders and boundaries, it's something that moves between provinces, and there are so many different nationalities involved that it demands that kind of cooperation."

Front-line challenges

Despite increasing attention and resources being directed towards anti-trafficking efforts, police on the front line still face enormous challenges, and training alone will not overcome them, workshop participants said.

"We can train the police to handcuff suspects, but if the police don't have handcuffs, then how can this be implemented?" said Naomi Svensson, a legal project coordinator for IJM.

"We also train police to separate victims and suspects, but sometimes it isn't possible because the police have only one car."

Another major problem is the lack of safe houses for rescued sex workers, Stayton said.

"You can train police on how to conduct victim-friendly brothel raids, where they communicate a message to the women being removed that they are victims, and they're not going to be treated like they're being prosecuted," Stayton said. "But if the police lack places to put the women for the next 24 to 48 hours while they're being processed and interviewed, if the only place they have is a jail cell where they shut and lock the women in for the night, the message ‘You're a victim' falls very flat."

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