Migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty can easily fall prey to traffickers

In countries that have welcomed large number of Syrian refugees, cases of labour exploitation and child labour have been detected. It is well known that in Europe, the trafficking and labour exploitation of migrant workers, sometimes in slavery-like conditions, is present for example in the tomato picking in the South, berry picking in the North, and generally speaking in the forestry, construction, and tourism industries.

How many of today's refugees and migrants are victims of human trafficking? The UN Migration Summit, which begins today in New York, must also be a Summit for Trafficked Migrants. The Summit must take action to break the chain of human trafficking, and tackle the driving factors of exploitation. One of the most powerful among them is the lack of regular channels for migration.

Some countries continue to adopt restrictive approaches, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to human trafficking. These policies contribute to denying trafficked persons their rights to assistance, protection, access to justice and remedies regardless of their residence status or whether perpetrators are identified, investigated or prosecuted. A policy shift is urgently needed. To prevent trafficking, it is necessary to protect the rights of all migrants, and of all vulnerable people, be them foreigners or nationals. The fight against trafficking is incompatible with restrictive migration policies that place people in a situation of irregularity and vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking. Walls, fences and laws criminalising irregular migration not only do not work, they increase the vulnerabilities of people fleeing conflict, persecution, crisis situations and extreme poverty, who can fall easy prey to traffickers and exploiters.

Just in the first half of 2016, 2,856 people have died, or are missing, after trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to IOM estimates. Despite generating tremendous emotion and solidarity in public opinion, these tragedies have not substantially advanced the terms of the discussion at the governmental level. As world leaders gather today to discuss a global response to the international migration crisis, let us uphold the values that bring together "We the Peoples of the United Nations" - to "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity & worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men & women in nations large and small."

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the occasion of two critical conferences at the UN on the Refugee and Migrant crisis: the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants (Sept. 19th, a UN conference) and the Leaders Summit on Refugees (Sept. 20th, hosted by U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, at the UN). To see all the posts in the series, visit here. To follow the conversation on Twitter, see #UN4RefugeesMigrants.