The Symposium opened with a presentation by Professor Jean-Michel Chaumont on the topic of ‘’Human Trafficking- the current Framework in Historical Perspective.’’ Professor offered his perspectives, based on socio-historical empirical analyses which expose the fact that cultural biases influence how we treat the concept of Human Trafficking. Of particular interest was his emphasis on the need for the political importance of making a distinction between ‘’Human Trafficking’’ & ‘’Smuggling/exploiting.’’ He acknowledged that in reality, the true needs of the victims are one & the same. There are hidden agendas he believes, in maintaining a distinction between these. When we help these people to return home, we feel good about ourselves but in reality many, many of these people do not want to return home at all.
Considerable discussions took place around the suggestion by one of the participants that regardless of distinctions, there is criminality behind both Human Trafficking and Smuggling, whereby vulnerable people are victims of organised crime structures.
Dr. Carrie Pemberton Ford, of the CCARHT, Cambridge University, talked about ‘’Terror networks,’’ which overwhelm the vulnerable through sheer terror. Terrorising the vulnerable has also become a mechanism by which criminal groups can gain cash/money, through sheer terrorising of others. These are clear networks, super-exploitative networks, which infiltrate across society, with the Trafficking routes akin to ‘’Outsourcing.’’
Dt. Pemberton Ford recommended that the topic be considered within a much broader framework than heretofore, i.e. The European Framework, instead of a Criminal Prosecution Framework, where this latter framework narrows down our understandings & our capacities to address the situation. Carries suggests interlacing The European Framework with the Sustainable Development Goals, which would more bring a necessary more humane and realistic perspective and depth. Ultimately and ideally, one needs and understanding of a WIDE range of issues related to HT, in order to try to arrive at Policy.
Recommended reading- The Pimping of Prostitution– by Julie Bindel.
Linda Ristagno, Manager External affairs, IATA International Association of Airlines- representing 225 global airlines. www.iata.org
Linda was met with a warm welcome & interest from the participants as she spoke to us about the IATA’s initiative to help governments & law enforcement conquer Human Trafficking within the aviation sector.
With increasing evidence which links Human Trafficking with crime and financial cartels, the airline industry shares an interest in prevention of Human Trafficking not only from a moral and Human Rights perspective, but also from the perspective of acting responsibly to play a part in reducing criminal activities.
Prevention and awareness-raising were recurring themes as she acknowledged that cabin crew are particularly critical to the initiative since they spend so much time on board flights and when well trained, are able to see the signs of Human Trafficking.
In line with current thinking, Linda emphasised the importance of cooperation with other actors, e.g. airport staff; border control & immigration staff etc. The sector now works with agents in the global picture, such as the UNODC and the CNN Freedom Project Initiative, to provide an industry-wide response , via awareness raising- engagement with governments & law enforcement and through guidance & training for airline staff.
#eyesopen is the IATA campaign – ‘’Say what you see.’’
Ruth Baldacchino, Co-Chair of the Working Group-Regularisation and Decriminalisation of Sex Work in Malta, spoke on behalf of the Maltese Parliamentary Secretary, responsible for the Human Trafficking portfolio who was regrettably unable to attend.
Ruth acknowledged Malta as a key destination country for Human Trafficking, with increased incidences of Human Trafficking for labour and exploitation purposes, most likely linked to the recent economic growth of Malta.
Malta is committed to investigating root problems giving rise to Human Trafficking and exploitation. Country reform is spear-headed by the Parliamentary Secretary, who heads up a working group comprising multi-disciplinary governmental departments. In order to learn from the experiences of others, this group have visited shelters both at home & abroad and heard many stories of abuse, exploitation, violence but throughout, they have seen that survivors have a determination to rebuild their lives.
At a national level, the Maltese Government has initiated public debate on the vulnerability of people, covering a number of areas including Human Trafficking, with a broader aim of reforming sex work & prostitution. Additionally, the Maltese government has initiated a strategy named ‘’Identity Malta’’ to combat Human Trafficking, set up in 2017.
The Maltese government has set up an agency which focuses solely on Human Trafficking, paying particular attention to addressing the flows of money surrounding Human Trafficking, as well as attending to gaining an understanding of the ‘’Push & Pull factors’’ associated with forced labour.
Once again, we heard of the concept of partnerships and collaborative capacities as part of the government’s commitment to suppress all forms of Human Trafficking, exploitation and gender-based violence and generally cracking down on criminal activities, as securing prosecution of criminals is low in Malta.
It was interesting to hear Ruth speak of the government’s commitment to devising a specific and relevant approach for Malta, in light of its particularly unique geographical base & cultural mores.
Throughout the presentation, we heard of the importance of involving the victims in so far as it is possible and the provision of a centralised information base to readily respond to the request ‘’Who can I contact for help?’’
Madeleine Sundell, Sweden – Salvation Army (Lawyer), spoke to the theme of ‘’ Stopping Perpetrators and Securing Justice: Strengthening Multi-agency responses.’’
Adopting a Victim’s Rights Approach, Madeleine covered Swedish perspectives on how to stop perpetrators and how best to secure justice through strengthened multi-agency responses.
All NGOs in Sweden work collaboratively as Civil Society platforms, meeting Human Trafficking as a Swedish problem, not just out there as a global crime. It occurs in all Swedish cities & therefore a concerted effort is made to address this crime together as one. In Sweden, there is a collective responsibility to identify and support both the perpetrators and the victims.
While the rights of the victim are paramount, in Sweden there is also provision for the rights of the perpetrator, who is also entitled to a Lawyer.
Madeleine spoke of a great challenge of the Swedish legal system whereby the Principles of Immediacy & the Principles of Oral Procedure require both the perpetrator & victim be in court together…which is very off-putting to victims who are threatened & unsafe when they testify.
Another challenge for Sweden is to address the risk of victims being re-trafficked – especially girls who are trafficked by means of criminal links e.g. begging, sex trade etc. and are fearful of being prosecuted as criminals if caught by the police.
In recognising Human Trafficking is not a crime that is self-reporting, the Swedish authorities are prioritising the training of front-line border officials, not only as a means of identification but also as an effort to ensure cross-agency collaboration.
Another concern was the concern for the unborn child of a Human Trafficking victim and how Sweden might best attend to that innocent child’s rights.
Altogether, it was a most interesting Symposium, with so much new information. The RENATE members present ( Imelda Poole, IBVM, Marie Hélène Halligon, RGS, Ivonne van de Kar & Anne Kelleher) used every opportunity to network and create links, which will not only sustain us in our work but extends our capacities as a network to learn from each other and strengthen the possibilities to collaboratively work in the fight against human trafficking.
Prepared by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications.