UN expert probes human trafficking in Cuba in milestone trip

AP News
|
Posted: Apr 10, 2017 2:24 PM

HAVANA (AP) — An independent expert from the United Nations was in Cuba on Monday for a four-day visit to evaluate the human trafficking situation on the island for the first time in a decade.

Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro is expected to visit a school and meet parliament leader Esteban Lazo and also has scheduled trips to the provinces of Matanzas and Artemisa near the capital, Havana.

Such U.N. visits are routine in other countries, but Cuba has generally rejected inspections by international organizations. The government has relaxed that stance somewhat in recent years, and officials welcomed Giammarinaro upon her arrival and stressed that Cuba has a zero-tolerance policy on trafficking.

They presented her with a government action plan on trafficking and exploitation. According to government statistics, in 2015 a little over 2,000 cases of underage sexual abuse were reported among a population of 2.6 million children.

Giammarinaro expects to analyze what progress Cuba has made and challenges it still faces regarding trafficking, including sexual and labor exploitation. The findings will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2018.

Other trips to Cuba by U.N. experts are still pending, including one related to torture.

Giammarinaro's visit comes three months after the United States ended its so-called wet foot, dry foot policy, which for over two decades allowed nearly all Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain. Island officials had long complained about it, arguing that it contributed to human trafficking.

The policy was scrapped in January days before then-President Barack Obama left office, as part of a process of normalizing relations between Washington and Havana.

The United States previously removed Cuba from its blacklist of countries it says have failed to fight modern-day slavery after diplomatic relations were formally restored in July 2015.