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Border Force trained on preventing human trafficking at the border

Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) has requested to train its staff to prevent and respond to human trafficking at the borders.

SSB guards India’s international borders with Nepal and Bhutan. Besides this, the force is also deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for counter-insurgency operations and anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

Caritas India is working with SSB under the Swaraksha Anti-Human Trafficking (AHT) program for over five years at the peripheries of the Indo-Nepal border under Maharajganj and Baharaich District of Uttar Pradesh. SSB from India and Armed Police Force (APF) from Nepal are the border forces deployed at the border transition points to intercept suspected movements which may be Human Trafficking cases.

The 1950 bilateral Peace and Friendship treaty between India and Nepal reinforced the relationships between both countries to ensure that the citizens of these nations move across the borders without passports or visas. This has also created a challenge to monitor their movement as there are many unguarded borders which are also in a vigil of SSB in which are present in twenty-two Border Out Post (BOP) in two blocks of the Maharajganj District. Around eight hundred SSB personnel including Constable, sub-Inspector, Inspector, Deputy Commandants and a Commandant are deputed in these BOPs to guard the borders throughout the year to control trans-border crimes, smuggling of arms, drugs and human trafficking and other areas of concern.

Caritas India’s Swaraksha AHT Program partner Purvanchal Gramin Seva Samiti (PGSS), Gorakhpur has developed a good rapport with the border forces and law enforcement agencies in the last five years and has done remarkable work in building and enhancing the capacities of border forces on Human Trafficking. SSB has realized that they have a greater role in saving lives of the innocent people despite other priorities as a first responder at the border.

Twice a year, the Border Out Post (BOP) staff of SSB are transferred to other places to maintain the official security protocol but after Covid-19 the entire BOP staff was transferred and new personnel were replaced in last month. Shri L P Upadhaya, SSB commandant of the 22nd Battalion requested PGSS to equip the new team in intercepting the suspected victims and understanding the dynamics of the Human Traffickers. PGSS accepted the invitation and trained three hundred SSB personnel of the fifteen BOP on Human Trafficking and its related aspects.

PGSS team focused the training on developing a conceptual understanding of Human trafficking, its cause and effect and modus operandi. Concept clarity was given on prospective victims, socio-economic causes and process, where perpetrators take advantage of the victim’s social condition and lure them for better employment and money. The training explained the role of SSB and related laws on Human trafficking and Child Protection.

Shravan Kumar, the intervention officer of the Swaraksha AHT program facilitated the workshop through an interactive group exercise on trafficking and the network of traffickers. Topics in his session dealt with the identification of the victims or traffickers and interception and inquiry to discover the truth. Pre and Post assessment of the participants revealed a tremendous change in their understanding and approach.

The salient features of the Juvenile Justice Act were also shared with the participants to give a wider perspective of the law to respond accordingly while intercepting any child at the border. They were also oriented to take the help of the NGOs working in the area to combat human trafficking. The forces were given a good understanding of developing better coordination with other agencies like the Police, childline and child welfare committees and SSB.

Caritas India Staff Animesh Williams also facilitated a session on the roles and responsibilities of SSB. He reiterated UNODC definition of SSB as the first responder, where they are stationed at the border to intercept suspected victims. He clarified the queries as to how SSB officials can respond to the victims when they intercept them and questions. He also reflected on the Trafficking in Person report 2022 released by the US department that puts India in the Tier 2 category which means that India does not fully meet the minimum standard for the elimination of human trafficking. He also informed that the report recommends the Indian government increase investigations, with a high rate of prosecutions and convictions also in all forms of trafficking including bonded labour.

The Government has shown improvisation in managing human trafficking cases by setting up an Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) in SSB and the National Disaster response force which will cater during any disaster.

AHTU – SSB in charge GB Jadeja appreciated the effort of Caritas India and PGSSS and their workshop partner opportunity village Network, Nepal in training the SSB personnel. At the end of the workshop, the proposal was made that all border forces and police with like-minded NGOs need to talk more on Policy level reforms where the use of technology in post covid era has changed the paradigm.