The Italian Cooperator Alberto Mossino, director of the oenegé antitrata PIAM, operating since 2000 in the Piedmont region (northern Italy), summarizes the matter in all its harshness. “One of the great problems in the fight against trafficking is the absence of a European coordination for the harmonization of laws and practices in defense of victims,” he says. And in replying, Mossino lets out another reflection, a product of the strict European news of recent weeks. “The paradox is that where so many years of fighting have failed, now the coronavirus and its quarantine are triumphing. There has been a precipitous drop in the trafficking business. Let’s see how long it lasts,” says this activist.
Beyond this exceptional crisis, the eradication of human trafficking – which we are addressing on the occasion of the European Day against Trafficking in Human Beings, which is commemorated on March 25 – remains a pending issue for the European Union (EU), according to experts and reports confirm. And the fact is that 12 years have passed since the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking (2008) and nine years of directive 36/2011 / EU, whose objective was the transposition into the laws of the member countries of common standards aimed at ending this scourge.
“That directive was at the time a great step forward, but the problem originated in its implementation. Some countries have not implemented it, while in others the policies of repression of irregular immigration prevail, to the detriment of adequate models for protect victims, “he says Helga Konrad, a former Austrian minister, considered one of the top European experts in trafficking networks. “I give a concrete example: we have cared for victims that Sweden returned to Italy, the country in which these people had suffered exploitation. All this, under the pretext of the ‘Dublin regulation’ [la norma europea que prevé que el solicitante de asilo presente su petición en el primer país de la UE al que ha llegado]”explains Mossino.
The latest study from the group of Experts against Trafficking in Human Beings, Known as the ‘Greta report’ (2018), published by the Council of Europe and which analyzed the response of the EU countries to human trafficking, it also shows that, despite some progress, there are still disruptions when it comes to give a coordinated and effective response to the phenomenon.
The document tells, for example, that in Spain there are insufficient resources to assist victims of exploitation other than sexual exploitation. Also that the French protection system Ac.Sé (antitrata) “is saturated, leading to waiting periods.” And even in Ireland there are no sheltered houses exclusively for suspected victims of trafficking, so these “vulnerable women can easily be subjected to sexual harassment and exploitation.”
have increased since 2014, to
root of the great
regrets the expert
“We always return to the same thing. There cannot be 27 different systems in the EU. There must be an adequate system for receiving these people, and not only responses when there are emergencies,” he argues. Lefteris Papagiannakis, former Deputy Mayor of Athens and today advisor to the Greek NGO Solidarity Now, by also emphasizing the difficulties facing impoverished countries like Greece.
“To make matters worse, the last great migratory flow that began in 2014 has increased the number of people, especially women, who are victims of this lucrative criminal business,” adds Konrad.
The tip of the iceberg
Experts and NGOs believe that the studies and reports that exist reflect only in part the gravity of the situation, since the research methodology is often different and the figures are not disclosed annually. An example is the latest report (‘Progress report’) of the European Commission (EC), published in December 2018 and which refers to data from 2015-2016. “It is another failure of the system, perhaps intentional, that prevents having an overview. Lack of will,” underlines the Austrian analyst.
Even so, the alarming thing about the figures is also in the trends that hint. It is striking that, in Europe, very markedly, women are the vast majority of identified victims of trafficking (71% according to UNODC, 68% according to the EC), in a count that includes both adults and girls.
work is the second way
The explanation may perhaps be found in that the most frequent crime in Europe, as far as trafficking is concerned, is still sexual exploitation (66%, according to UNODC; 56%, according to the EC). A phenomenon that also evolves. “We are seeing more and more victims of trafficking arriving in Greece after entering Turkey by air.
Ar And there are not only Nigerians, but also women from Cameroon, Congo and Gabon, “says the anthropologist Nadina Christopoulou, co-founder of the Greek NGO Melissa Network. In the case of Spain, this crime also seriously affects many people from Latin America (particularly from Paraguay), as the State Attorney General’s Office warned last September.
Exploited day laborers
After prostitution, labor exploitation is the second form of trafficking (27%, according to UNODC; 26%, according to the EC) in Europe. A fact that is not difficult to understand considering the overexploitation of day laborers in some crops in Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Although in this case, as in the case of sexual exploitation, the number of victims is not known for certain, the police raids in these countries have brought to light a phenomenon that affects impoverished nationals and people arriving on European soil. without documents and that are captured by mafias. The debt contracted with the traffickers who have made it easier for them to enter Europe and with their exploiters lead them to work in fields of complicit businessmen.
There is low surrender
of accounts of
of the networks
That said, most of the cases detected (and registered by the authorities) of identified victims do not originate, as you might think, from migration, but mostly affect European citizens. A reality that, although some researchers attribute that traffickers also take advantage of freedom of movement in the states of the Schengen area (and of the socioeconomic inequality that exists between EU countries), others attribute it to the fact that migrants in an irregular administrative situation, they have greater difficulty accessing protection systems. Reason why they remain invisible.
Minors are not exempt from this situation. “We know that some of the children who disappear in Europe end up in sexual exploitation, but unfortunately there is a lack of coordination between European countries, and there are many flaws in the processes of identifying possible victims, leaving many out of official statistics “says the Belgian Marc van den Reeck, expert in child trafficking. “Having said that, we can also say that today there is a greater awareness of the European authorities that trafficking is a phenomenon that is around us,” says Van den Reeck.
Another issue is that there is low accountability of those responsible for this trafficking in persons to justice. In the years 2015-2016 – the last ones cited by the EC – a total of 7,503 trafficking suspects were arrested and 5,979 were charged, 75% of whom were men and from EU countries. However, there were only 2,957 convictions, a figure that prosecutors consider “low”, since it reflects that a large part of the traffickers remain in impunity.
The reason, according to NGOs and the police, is because human trafficking networks operating in Europe are sophisticated transnational organizations that continue to adapt to the times and make extensive use of technologies.
“The ‘loverboy method’ [traficantes que captan a las víctimas a través de engaños sentimentales, para luego consumar la explotación] It has adapted to the digital environment. The Internet is increasingly used to recruit new victims, through social media and pages offering jobs abroad, “explains a source at Europol, the EU agency for police cooperation.
use less physical violence than in the past
and more psychological “,
It is not the only trap. “Traffickers use less physical violence today than in the past; psychological violence and verbal threats are more common. This reduces victims’ feeling of being exploited and hinders their cooperation” with the police, adds the Europol source.
Some of these criminals are old known as the Albanian networks, involved for decades in the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe, while others are currently booming, such as the clans of the Nigerian mafia (in particular the Black Ax, the Eiye and the Vikings), which operate throughout Europe, in particular, trafficking with nationals and people from other African countries.
Voodoo or Yuyu
This reality was already denounced by the World Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2016, after thousands of Nigerian women arrived in Italy that year. “More than 80% of these people are victims of prostitution networks,” arrived to say Federico Soda, then IOM representative for the Mediterranean and today head of the mission in Libya of the same organization. Voodoo or yuyu has often been the invisible thread that has kept these women tied to their traffickers and prevented them from fleeing once they have reached their destinations in Europe.
That said, looking ahead, there are also positive and hopeful experiences, particularly from the Nordic countries. “A system that is giving very positive results is that of Barhaus schools, that they first opened in Iceland and that in the Nordic countries they also work for child victims of trafficking, “says the German Daja Wenke, an independent researcher who has closely studied the methods applied in Northern Europe.
The successful Nordic model
“The ‘Barhaus model’ proposes that all professionals involved in cases of sexual exploitation, from doctors to prosecutors, coordinate. This prevents the minor from having to repeat his traumatic experience many times and there are studies that say that the degree of reliability of their testimonies is high, “adds the researcher.
“The truth is that, although they are still far from perfect, the Nordic countries have created more solid structures for the protection of victims, while in southern Europe, among the positive aspects that can be mentioned, is the highest humanity in the deal, “concludes the expert.