Human Trafficking: New concept for Lebanese policemen

A pioneering anti-trafficking training course held last week opened the eyes of Lebanese policemen on Lebanon’s hidden phenomenon; human trafficking. 

For the first time, 30 selected police officers attended a World Vision training course that offered a clear definition of trafficking and looked at policing procedures related to assisting trafficking cases; identification, investigation techniques, communication skills with vulnerable children and referral to social services. 

“Even the word [trafficking] was new to those officers,” said Major Elie Asmar, World Vision’s co-facilitator. “Forms of trafficking were often treated as cases of “minor retention” or “forced sexual relations”.” 

 Not only was it the first time police officers have received training on anti-trafficking procedures, it also gave them the opportunity to discuss the referral system in the country and think about ways in which it can be improved to ensure the best interest of the child is paramount. Selection of participants was based on their area of work. Most of them operate on Lebanese borders, where trafficking transactions are likely to take place.

“The idea we had was limited to selling a child from one source to another,” said one of the participating officers. “Now, the whole concept [of trafficking] is clear.”

The idea we had was limited to selling a child from one source to another...now, the whole concept [of trafficking] is clear This lack of understanding is fairly common across governmental institutions in Lebanon. Building the capacity of governmental actors to understand and respond to cases of trafficking in an effective, victim-centred way is one of the key focuses within World Vision Lebanon's anti-trafficking programme. 

 According to World Vision’s ongoing research in Lebanon, three groups have emerged as being highly vulnerable to trafficking; foreign domestic workers, women from Eastern European countries, Syria and Morocco for prostitution purposes, and trafficked children for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Also, in the absence of anti-trafficking legislation in the country, a key part of the training looked at the existing laws that could be used to prosecute traffickers. 

“World Vision had engaged media stakeholders in previous workshops. Now policemen. Soon our work will start with the children themselves,” said Carla Lewis, World Vision’s Trafficking and Gender Officer. “We need to empower children on how to advocate against trafficking.”