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HRW: Thailand must end trafficking of Rohingya asylum-seekers

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged Thailand to work with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [official website] to screen detained persons for refugee status and the mandate to protect refugees and stateless people. Thousands of ethnic Rohingya fleeing abuse in Rakhine state [Economist backgrounder] enter Thailand seeking asylum. According to HRW, Thailand's "help on" policy of intercepting small boats carrying Rohingya has been abused [press release], with the Thai navy either pushing ill-equipped boats of asylum seekers out to sea, or giving the Royingya to people smugglers who promise to send the Rohingya onwards for a high price, and hand over those unable to pay to human traffickers. HRW further alleges that Thailand's indefinite detention of Rohingya children [HRW report] and prohibition on educating those children in immigration detention centers violates its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child [text]. HRW strong encourages Thailand to end the detention of ethnic Rohingya and punish officials complicit in Rohingya abuse and trafficking.

Human trafficking [JURIST backgrounder] is an international issue plaguing countries all over the world. In October, UN rights experts, the Council of Europe (COE) and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) [official websites] jointly issued a statement calling for global cooperation [JURIST report] in the fight against the transnational trafficking of persons. The joint statement follows a report filed by the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons in June urging the international community to focus on the human rights of trafficked individuals when criminalizing and prosecuting human trafficking as well as a statement by the European Commission regarding its plans to end human trafficking in Europe [JURIST reports]. Human trafficking is "a multi-billion dollar industry which has trapped some 21 million men, women and children in forced labor," and occurs across the globe but is most prevalent [JURIST backgrounder] in regions of conflict. The European Commission identified key risk factors as poverty, gender inequality, and social unrest.

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