Ambassador Furuta-Toy’s Speech on Human Trafficking

” Ladies, gentlemen, and distinguished guests, I am extremely happy to see you all here today as I mark my final week as the United States Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea.

Over the course of my time in Equatorial Guinea, I have worked to raise awareness of the problem of Trafficking in Persons.  It is important that we all remember that this terrible crime persists today, and that an estimated 25 million people are victims of this form of modern slavery worldwide.

No country is immune from this problem.  It happens in every corner of the globe – in homes, factories, hotels, on farms and in fishing vessels. Even around sporting events.  It happens in places you might never suspect, right here in Equatorial Guinea, as well as in my country – the United States of America.  What is important is that we work together globally and locally to combat and end this terrible practice.

One of the major challenges to combating human trafficking is lack of awareness and understanding of what it is – a hidden crime that often goes unreported, in part because victims may be threatened by their traffickers not to contact police, do not trust law enforcement authorities, or are fearful of reprisal, stigma, or punishment. .

This profound problem requires the efforts of governments, private companies, nongovernmental organizations, civil society, and individuals all over the world to address it.  Here in E.G. all of these sectors are more aware of the issue than they were three years ago.  I hope to see these sectors working together to take actions to combat trafficking in the near future.

President Obiang and the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Third Vice Prime Minister are all taking an active role to address this issue.  Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently spoke about this issue on the “A Fondo” television show.  They mentioned that individual citizens could help identify potential victims and make sure the proper authorities are aware so that they can address the problem.

To support these efforts, the United States Embassy has given a grant of to the United Nations Development Program to support the Government of Equatorial Guinea in its efforts to combat human trafficking. In addition, we have worked with the the Equatorial Guinean government to develop an action plan that includes such steps as:

  • Training law enforcement officials, immigration officials, and social workers on how to identify and help victims, and
  • Launching a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.

For those who are interested in learning more about what you can do, we have a paper with the website information here.

As I depart Equatorial Guinea, I am proud to know that together we have taken some positive steps towards addressing human trafficking in Equatorial Guinea and the Central African region.  But the fight must continue!  I want to express my deep gratitude to the officials of the UNDP for accepting the Trafficking in Persons grant and for taking such a lead role in this effort.  I wish you well, and I look forward to reading about your successes.

Thank you very much.”