At least 1,700 women from Latin America and the Caribbean are lured each year into sexual slavery in Japan’s huge illicit sex industry, according to a new report being presented today.

     

A team of researchers hired by the Organisation of American States found that most of the women come from Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Peru.

The team of researchers – led by Phillip Linderman, an expert on loan from the US State Department – was presenting the Rapid Assessment Report to an international seminar on human trafficking, sponsored by Peru’s Foreign Ministry.

The OAS analysis was culled from interviews with presumed victims, Japanese immigration records and crime data.

It is estimated that crime organisations, like Yakuza, Japan’s second-largest crime syndicate, exploit tens of thousands of undocumented foreign women in Japan, mostly from other Asian countries, in what Japan’s National Police Agency estimates is a $83bn (€64.2bn)-a-year industry, the report says.

Linderman said that until recently, governments on both sides of the Pacific paid little attention to the problem.

The Colombian Embassy in Japan stood out, aggressively working to identify and assist the estimated 4,000 Colombians it believes are human trafficking victims.

But Linderman said the figures in his report probably represent only a percentage of trafficking victims, particularly from other Latin American country’s like Peru, which is just starting to tackle the issue.

“The ties between Japan and Peru are larger for historical reasons, for migratory reasons, for all kinds of reasons, than they are between Colombia and Japan, and it’s our position right now in the preliminary study that there are many more victims here,” he said.

Japan came under mounting international pressure last year after it was downgraded in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report. It became the only industrialised, developed nation to be placed on a special ”watch list” of countries on the verge of falling into the report’s lowest category, the OAS study noted.

In response, “the government of Japan announced a new national plan to combat human trafficking in December 2004,” among other measures, the OAS report continued.

Chieko Tatsumi, of the International Organised Crime Division in Japan’s Foreign Ministry, who went to Lima to attend the seminar, said her government launched an aggressive public ad campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking. “I think the Japanese people are paying more attention to these issues,” she said.

Report of Organisation of American States, 30.04.2005

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