According to the International Organization of Migration, 250,000 people have been trafficked through Turkey since 1999.
If the facts didn’t support this claim, I might be tempted to dispute it. Yet despite the many social advances and humanitarian efforts that have been elevated over the last several decades, the illegal trade of humans is still a prevalent practice in many parts of the world today.
Because of its location as a bridge between Europe and Asia, and because of the socio-economic attractions that it offers in contrast to neighboring countries in the region, Turkey accounts for one of the largest destination spots for the countless victims of this imaginable crime.
In 2000, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols was adopted and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children was created to address this growing problem. In 2002, Turkey took definitive steps to combat this issue, beginning first by ratifying the UN measure and then setting up a National Task Force to enforce it. Yet while media and traditional advertising mechanisms have been put in place to help identify and find victims, a comprehensive digital strategy campaign has yet to be implemented by some of the leading voices in this issue.
High Internet Use in Turkey
I was actually quite surprised to learn that the Turkish government had yet to use social media in their efforts considering Turkey is one of the 15 largest internet populations in the world. In fact, the Internet World Stats reported that there were 35,000 internet users in Turkey (representing 45% of the population) in June 2010. Those same reports also indicate that Turks spend a lot of their online time searching and using social media outlets (Turkey enjoys the third highest Facebook population in the world) – a fact that would seem to lend itself to a ready campaign around this issue.
While they do provide important information about human trafficking on their website, the governmental site for the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs that specifically deals with human trafficking could benefit from a social media overhaul.
A Digital Strategy Campaign
Facebook: With so many Turks using social media platforms each and every day, these sites are an easy way to set up missing person profiles, give descriptions and share other relevant information that can lead officials to these women and children. The Turkish government can create page specifically designed to disseminate information on persons , both victims and perpetrators, in real-time. As users visit the page, they can provide tips and clues on the whereabouts of these victims – perhaps providing just the right information to lead officials to victims.
Windows Live Profile: As the second most popular social media platform, this instant messenger platform can be easily incorporated on the homepage of the existing Turkish government website and monitored 24 hours a day as people submit tips and information on missing persons. Success of this type of feature will depend on the rapid-verification and follow up on information that is shared via this platform.
Blogs: Contributors to the non-profit organization’s blog site, The Human Trafficking Project, utilize art and technology to raise awareness of human trafficking and connect those working to combat this issue while also supporting the many nameless victims. The Turkish government could implement a similar type of blog on their website to connect family and friends, desperately searching for information on how to find their lost loved ones, to useful information and other anti-human trafficking sites around the world.
Sadly, human trafficking won’t go away overnight. Every day, thousands of women and children are being victimized by this senseless crime. And while they have made great strides to address this problem, by incorporating a digital strategy campaign into the mix, the Turkish government is sure to see considerable improvements – and just maybe, justice can finally be served.