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Homeland Security


Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

5 March 2007

More media involvement was needed to educate women and girls on the dangers of human trafficking, said Natalya Petkevich, Deputy Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus, who briefed correspondents this afternoon on the outcome of the morning session of the International Conference on Women and Girls, which was under way at United Nations Headquarters today.

Ms. Petkevich was joined by Vladimir Naumov, Belarus’ Minister of the Interior, and Ashraf Kamal, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.

Through the briefing, correspondents learned that the International Conference on Women and Girls was currently focused on the trafficking in persons and other forms of contemporary slavery, and was a joint effort of the Governments of Belarus and the Philippines, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Vital Voices, a non-governmental organization. Among the participants were the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Organization for Migration, United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Interpol and others.

Ms. Petkevich said that, in the past, her country had co-sponsored a resolution on improving coordination among Member States to prevent human trafficking, which was then adopted by the General Assembly. Since then, Belarus had sought to prevent human trafficking across nations, and was tackling the factors that made some women and girls easy prey, such as poverty and low levels of education.

“Vulnerable populations should not have to seek a fast buck by going to other countries,” she added, saying that countries whose citizens were susceptible to being trafficked must create the necessary conditions for people to realize their potential within their own borders, rather than having to seek jobs elsewhere.

Mr. Naumov added: “Girls or women are told that somewhere in the world they can simply earn a lot of money without having any specialty or profession.” He said that the media should prevent people acting in bad faith from placing their advertisements in the publications.

He said that, last year, over 567 cases of human trafficking had come to light in Belarus, involving 10 organized crime groups and around 100,000 victims. When caught, perpetrators could receive up to 10 years in prison.

Belarus was also stepping up its efforts to meet the needs of victims, Ms. Petkevich added. For instance, a woman held captive for 24 years in Turkmenistan had been freed and was currently receiving assistance and rehabilitation at a charity house in Minsk, the Belarus capital. According to Ms. Petkevich, the woman had no place to live and had lost her identity papers. Her documents had been speedily restored, and efforts were being made to find housing for her.

However, both Mr. Naumov and Ms. Petkevich emphasized that trafficking was not a large-scale problem in Belarus, and that the country had become active in the fight against human trafficking due to its location within Europe. Ms. Petkevich said Belarus’ main concern was to erect barriers to impede the flow of illegal immigrants and human trafficking victims across its territory, which had adverse effects on neighbouring nations and those of Western Europe.

Mr. Naumov added: “Many countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States do not yet recognize the existence of such a problem. They tried to gloss over [it], in silence.”

One journalist noted that the United Nations News Centre had identified Belarus as a country acutely affected by the problem, which Mr. Naumov denied. He said he knew of that media report, but to his understanding, the assessment had been provided by Ukraine, which, in turn, had been derived from average figures collected from countries across the Commonwealth of Independent States. Belarus’ self-assessment was that the problem was ten times less serious.

Asked to comment on the independence of the Belarus press and how the policy would affect journalists reporting on human trafficking, Ms. Petkevich emphasized that the media in her country was independent of the State. It was currently covering the problem “in an active way”, especially in discussing the country’s international initiatives and advances in the laws.

Mr. Naumov said he thought the level of funding devoted to the cause was sufficient, adding he was confident that more resources would be forthcoming by the time of the upcoming global conference in Vienna, scheduled for November. For its part, UNODC had prepared a clear-cut road map to consolidate the efforts of the world community to combat trafficking, and Belarus intended to contribute to that effort. But it was hoped that members of the mass media would take an increasingly active part.

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For information media • not an official record

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