Remarks by Assistant Cabinet Secretary Yachi on Human Trafficking

Assistant Cabinet Secretary, Shotaro Yachi
The Conference on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking in Asia
June 23, 2004

Thank you, Ms. Horiuchi, Ambassador Baker, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my honor to make short remarks on this important occasion of a conference on human trafficking in Asia.

At the outset, I would like to make one point very clear. It is that trafficking in persons is a gross violation of human dignity and human rights, and a disgrace to our societies. This is what everyone here agrees and is also what the Government of Japan fully shares.

It is against such background that the Government of Japan set up a coordination mechanism on fighting against trafficking in persons at the Prime Ministerfs Office on April 5th this year, chaired jointly by myself and my colleague, another Assistant Cabinet Secretary. The participants of this mechanism include ranking officials of the relevant Ministries and Agencies, such as Ministry of Justice, National Police Agency, Ministry of Labour and Welfare, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Government of Japan has clear intention to strengthen our domestic measures to combat trafficking in persons. These measures have three aspects, namely legislative measures, administrative measures and institutional arrangement. Taking this opportunity, please allow me to review briefly the most important points among them.

First, on legislative measures. gOptional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornographyh, which is an important international legal instrument, was approved for ratification at the Diet in April this year. The Government of Japan will take necessary procedures for its ratification as soon as the change of a domestic law for its implementation is approved by the Diet in the extraordinary session expected in this autumn.

And another important international legal instrument, gProtocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime,h is now under close examination by the officials of the relevant Ministries and Agencies, with the aim of submitting it to the Diet in the next ordinary session, starting January next year, for approval of the ratification. In this connection, domestic laws against trafficking in persons are also earnestly examined to be submitted to the Diet in conjunction with that Protocol.

Second, on administrative measures. Effective use of Womenfs Consulting Offices throughout Japan as shelters for trafficking victims is being pursued. Victims can stay in the shelter and receive treatment, without being immediately reported to the Immigration Bureau as visa violators. In addition, due to amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, illegal residents who voluntarily appear to the Immigration Bureau will leave Japan as non-criminals. Concerning investigation of traffickers, the National Police Agency has instructed all the 47 Prefectural Police to intensify investigation on trafficking in persons to accelerate arrests of traffickers. As for immigration control, the Immigration Bureau is tightening up immigration control, taking account of annual survey on abuse of resident permissions and visas.

Third, on institutional arrangements. Besides the coordination mechanism on fighting against trafficking in persons at the Prime Ministerfs Office, Organized Crime Control Department was set up in the National Police Agency on the 1st April this year. And also International Organized Crime Division is to be set up in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 1st August 2004.

In addition to these three aspects of measures, it is extremely important to exchange opinions with other governments, international organizations, and NGOs to identify specific measures to combat trafficking in persons and to find how to implement such measures. From that point of view, the Government of Japan will further intensify collaboration with them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We recognize that trafficking in persons is a complex problem. It is rooted in many factors, such as poverty, ideas about the subordination of women and children, inadequate protection of human rights, insufficient opportunities in accessing the labour market and education, and so on. In order to tackle these rooted factors particularly in developing countries, the Government of Japan has willingly provided assistance by way of Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Government of Japan has also established the Trust Fund for Human Security in 1999 within the United Nations and has been financing specific projects to support those who belong to the weakest position of the societies particularly in developing countries. Activities supported by this Fund in 2003 include those for prevention of trafficking in children and women at a community level in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Since it is necessary to focus more on this important problem, this conference is a very timely occasion to provide good opportunities to exchange ideas of fighting against trafficking in persons with officials of various governments, participants from international organizations, and members of NGOs. By concluding my remarks, I would like to express appreciation to the US Embassy in Japan, the Vital Voices, and the ILO Tokyo Branch Office for organizing this conference and putting together the many willing participants here in Tokyo.

Thank you for your attention.