Japanese authorities have discovered and deported 51 human trafficking victims who were smuggled into the country to work in the sex and entertainment industries in the first half of 2005.
The number of victims was three times the tally in the first six months of last year, according to the National Police Agency report.
The victims were sent back to their home countries, including the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Romania, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and Estonia.
While in Japan, they were forced into activities ranging from prostitution to working in hostess clubs where servers wear lingerie, the report said. Police arrested 29 other people on human trafficking charges in the first half of 2005, up from 24 last year.
The Switzerland-based International Organization for Migration estimates that as many as 150,000 trafficking victims could be working in Japan's sex industry. Activists say many women who voluntarily but illegally enter Japan are then saddled with exorbitant debts to their traffickers who enslave them to repay their travel fees.
The government has come under heavy international and domestic pressure to clamp down on human trafficking. A top U.N. anti-trafficking official urged Japan to do more to combat the problem. Sigma Huda, U.N. special rapporteur on trafficking, said a law enacted in June 2005 that made trafficking people into Japan a criminal offense was only a first step. The new law, which took effect 12 July 2005, was introduced after the U.S. State Department added Japan to a list of countries too lax on human trafficking.
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