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Experts join forces during hackathon against human trafficking

 

Source: Border Security Report

In the last ten years, the internet and social media have been increasingly used in practices that involve forms of human trafficking and exploitation. That is why various experts from twenty European countries came to the Netherlands during a hackathon to look together online for signs of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

 

On September 6, 2022, EMPACT and the Dutch police coordinated an online day of action targeting criminal networks that use websites and social media to recruit victims of sexual and labour exploitation. This first EU-wide* hackathon** against online human trafficking was conducted by experts from 20 countries and Eurojust and supported by Europol.

Gathered in one room at the Dutch Police Academy in Apeldoorn, 85 detectives from all over Europe checked 114 platforms for human trafficking. The various experts put their heads together to map out at a European level whether, in addition to the already known sex advertising sites, other internet platforms are also being used to offer sexual services. And if so, whether these contain online signs of sexual exploitation.

 

New studies
Both the internet and human trafficking are not bound by national borders. Many social media platforms, dating apps and online private groups are being “hijacked” by people engaged in human trafficking for sexual or labor exploitation. During COVID-19, criminals took advantage of the pandemic to bolster their trafficking activities and make even more profits. It is more essential than ever to detect human trafficking online. The international cooperation during this hackathon and the exchange of knowledge, expertise and technology contributes to a better mapping of this criminal landscape and has resulted in new investigations. One of the actions targeted human traffickers trying to lure Ukrainian refugees.

 

Key figures:
Monitored 114 online platforms, of which 30 targeted vulnerable Ukrainian citizens;

  • Checked 53 online platforms suspected of involvement in human trafficking, with 10 targeting only vulnerable Ukrainian citizens;
  • Checked 5 online platforms involved in human trafficking, four of which focused on the sexual exploitation of children via the dark web;
  • 11 suspects of human trafficking whose identities have been identified, including 5 persons involved in human trafficking targeting vulnerable Ukrainian citizens;
  • 45 possible victims discovered, including 25 of Ukrainian nationality;
  • 20 platforms potentially involved in human trafficking identified, which will be further investigated and monitored;
  • 80 persons/usernames checked, of which 30 are involved in possible exploitation of vulnerable Ukrainian citizens.

 

Although the actions mainly focused on human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the investigators also looked for leads for other forms of exploitation, including labor exploitation. The detectives searched a wide range of websites and other online platforms for human trafficking and other criminal activity. These platforms include social media, dating sites, advertising and support platforms, forums and messaging apps. Investigators have also investigated dark web platforms linked to human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children online.

*Participating countries
Albania, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom and Sweden.

**Hackathon
When a group of experts comes together, in this case online, and together they look for ways to solve or investigate online a certain well-defined problem within a limited time.

 

Europol

Europol supported the coordination of operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical assistance. On the action day, Europol set up a virtual command center to facilitate real-time information exchange, while a specialized analyst compared the operational information with the information in Europol’s databases. This has provided the investigators of the participating enforcement agencies with directions for further investigation.

About EMPACT THB

EMPACT Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) is an EU project whose main aim is to tackle human trafficking. The Netherlands, as ultimately responsible for this, is closely involved. By joining international forces, 1,250 investigations into human trafficking were established last year. (EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats))  

Upcoming International Webinars on Human Trafficking by Ad Laudato Si Integral Ecology Forum

 

Ad Laudato Si Integral Ecology Forum have extended an open invitation to two webinars on subjects relating to human trafficking before the end of September. Visit the Ad Laudato Si website to register for attendance.

The first, titled ‘Countering The Use Of Technology To Recruit And Control Victims Of Human Trafficking, Especially Related To The Sex Trafficking Of Children And Women’ will take place next Tuesday September 20th from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (UTC+2).

“It’s also important to address and to dismantle the infrastructure that is facilitating all of this. The online platforms, the sexual service websites, the pornography platforms where people are trafficked for forced pornography or other locations need to be dismantled or prevention measures need to be applied to make sure that these platforms are not facilitating and making this whole exploitative industry much more efficient. 

It’s like operating a bookstore versus operating Amazon. The difference between the speed and efficiency and scale of the online market is so tremendous that if you don’t dismantle that infrastructure, you’re going to have a very, very hard time combating it. 

I think there’s a number of things I could say in this, but that would be the number one thing that I think needs to go alongside of the policies around buying and selling of sex or around traffickers and how they should be punished.” 

Valiant Richey, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings” — 14 June 2022

The second webinar is named ‘Human Trafficking And Laudato Si’:
Towards A New Paradigm To Ensure The Protection Of Human Dignity,
To Prevent And Eradicate Human Trafficking’.

This will be hosted on Wednesday September 28th, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (UTC+2).

“What we need to do is to build a new economic and social model where the human person is at the center: Pope Francis calls this an “economy of care”.

What is this economy of care required by Pope Francis, and how could we achieve it from a Christian perspective?”

REGISTER TO ATTEND HERE

Medaille Trust Summer Magazine Focuses On Sir Mo Farah’s Story Of Being Trafficked As A Child

 

Medaille Trust , the UK-based modern slavery charity and partner of RENATE, have published a summer magazine with an emphasis on trafficking and exploitation.

The focus of this edition was sparked by the recently discovered past of four-time olympic gold medalist Sir Mo Farah, who publicly recounted his experience of being trafficked into the UK as a child and subjected to domestic servitude, a fact he had kept secret throughout his life and dazzling athletic career until July this year.

He was liberated from only when he confided his plight to his school teacher, who with the school authorities called on the intervention of social services to restore him to a safe and nurturing home.

Other stories of trafficking survivors receiving direct support from Medaille Trust can be heard in this edition.

To read the full magazine, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image contains mockup design by pmvchamara on Freepik

New OSCE report assesses progress of anti-trafficking work across member states

 

A much-awaited report  by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), published in July 2022, examines the progress in the fight against human trafficking made by the 57 signatory states of the OSCE since its previous survery conducted in 2015.

Valiant Richey, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, speaking at the launch event, celebrated that thanks to the coverage of the report, the OSCE now had significant ‘longitudinal data’ to assess the effectiveness of the implementation of its recommendations over a seven year period.

The overarching finding was happily that progress has indeed been made in the fight against human trafficking by the OSCE states, with notable improvements to anti-trafficking legal measures targeting procurement and supply chains.

The general observation gleaned from the collective data was that most countries were taking the right kind of action recommended by the OSCE to varying degrees.

Meanwhile, the most widespread drawback was seen to be in resource constraints on the anti-trafficking measures, limiting their effectiveness.

Other causes for concern were voiced, such as the gross increase in reported cases of trafficking for forced criminality and forced begging. Another glaring problem was highlighted that only 34 of the 57 signatories criminalise the use of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The findings have not left the OSCE confounded on the next steps to take, far from it. Many incisive recommendations are tabled in the report, to implore legislators and other acting organisations to further increase their effectiveness in combatting human trafficking in the coming years.

Watch the launch event

OSCE 2021 full report

Talitha Kum publish Annual Report

 

Talitha Kum, one of RENATE’s most prevalent partners in the fight against human trafficking, have published their annual report reflecting on the organisation’s progress throughout 2021.

The reach and importance of Talitha Kum’s work to help victims of trafficking and to  prevent instances of trafficking and exploitation are made evident in the reflections of the report, which present several significant and quantified achievements.

The reports introduction states:

“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic made it more difficult to combat trafficking,  in 2021  Talitha Kum recorded a numerical and qualitative growth  in its activities compared to the previous year  

  • present in 92 countries
  • with 55 national networks (5 more than the previous year)
  • 6,039 people actively involved in anti-trafficking actions on all continents.
  • 336,958 people reached by Talitha Kum all over the world
  • of these, 258,549 benefited from prevention activities
  • 19,993 are victims and survivors supported by the network;
  • 58,416 people involved in networking, training and  capacity-building activities .”

Read the full annual report

Bakhita Section meeting: co-operating to help refugees

 

Sisters from the Bakhita Section for Counteracting Contemporary Forms of Slavery and Aid to Victims met on June 25, 2022 in Częstochowa.

The meeting was attended by: Sr. Bożena Noga – President of the Section, Sr. Anna Bałchan, Sr. Barbara Zawiła, Sr. Czesława Morkowska, Sr. Sylwia Prokopowicz, Sr. Goretti Nowak, Sr. Leonarda Klim, Sr. Katarzyna Grunwald and Sr. Gabriela Hasiura.

The meeting began with a prayer to St. Sister Bakhita, taken from the document “Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking”, which the Vatican has issued in cooperation with episcopates of various countries.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Sisters shared this year’s activities as part of the Section’s goals. Sr. Katarzyna presented a report prepared for the Conference of Major Superiors of Female Religious Congregations. Sr. Gabriela Hasiura shared her experience at the RENATE working board meeting, which took place in May in the Netherlands. She also talked about the upcoming meeting of all members of the RENATE network in Fatima in November this year and establishing contacts with the International Justice Mission, operating in many countries worldwide. Sister Bożena Noga, on the other hand, shared information on cooperation with Talitha Kum, International Network Against Human Trafficking caring for persons wounded by exploitation and acting against inequalities caused by economic and cultural systems.

In addition, by reading the signs of the times, the Sisters from the Bakhita Network were actively involved in helping women and children, and sometimes also entire families – refugees from Ukraine, sensitized to search for possible victims of trafficking among them.

These are the following forms of assistance undertaken by sisters:

  • sheltered housing
  • information actions to protect against trade – warning posters at railway stations
  • volunteering
  • appealing to the Minister of Justice with a request to react to the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings at the borders
  • making recruitment difficult for traders by creating car registration procedures (Przemyśl)
  • work in the support network in local communities
  • helping people travelling by train (Kutno)
  • employing people from Ukraine
  • receiving children from Ukraine in institutions and surrounding them and their mothers with special care 
  • therapeutic meetings for children and mothers
  • prophylactic actions Woman to Woman
  • assistance in acquiring professional qualifications (cook, kitchen assistant, teacher’s help) – Stowarzyszenie PoMOC
  • learning the Polish language
  • participation in the project “Tenda di Abramo” Italy – a six-month relocation project in Italy
  • support for Polish families hosting refugees
  • integration meetings for people from Ukraine and Poland
  • holiday integration trips
  • helping women with transport, departure to Italy and Spain
  • short-term stays in our religious houses
  • material assistance, collections
  • humanitarian transports to Ukraine

We are aware that the war triggered a lot of sensitivity and willingness to help and at the same time intensified destructive processes, including trafficking in human beings. We want to take a step forward to prepare ourselves to work with victims in this part of the world. Hence the idea of ​​organizing training on cultural differences and setting boundaries wisely: “Cultural differences – my world is not your world” on September 24-25, 2022 in Częstochowa for nuns and lay people serving among refugees who want to learn about cultural differences to help more effectively.

RCPCH publishes new Child Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking guidance for paediatricians

 

Download the full guidance document

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published new guidelines on the subject of Child Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, aimed to assist paediatricians in identifying and helping victims of trafficking in the course of their work.

Introducing the new document, the RCPCH states:

“In 2020, over 10,000 potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) were identified in the United Kingdom, half of whom claimed they were exploited as children1 . Due to the clandestine nature of these crimes, the count of all victims is likely to be significantly higher and it is anticipated that MSHT will escalate in the wake of the economic and societal disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigating policies.2

Forms of exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Labour exploitation
  • Criminal exploitation
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Domestic servitude 
  • Financial exploitation
  • Other forms including forced marriage

These practice guidelines aim to introduce MSHT as a significant health and public health concern, intersecting with many socially-located causes of health inequalities and inequity including poverty, lack of education and opportunity, racism and gender-based discrimination.

They also aim to provide guidance on the role of paediatricians in addressing child MSHT. This is key as victims and survivors of MSHT are a particularly vulnerable group of children and young people who may go unrecognised and be misunderstood by health, social care, foster care, education, immigration and police services. They may also be wrongly criminalised for actions they were forced or manipulated to take during their exploitation. This is particularly the case for criminally-exploited children and young people, including victims within the ‘County Lines’ illegal drugs networks.

Good practice recommendations

  • Paediatricians will encounter victims and survivors of child MSHT and must familiarise themselves with the signs of MSHT in children and young people (CYP) and the ways in which they present to healthcare settings.
  • Paediatricians must follow local safeguarding procedures and referral pathways to dedicated safeguarding professionals and other agencies (most importantly social care and the police), where MSHT is suspected.
  • Paediatricians are expected to engage their existing trauma-informed care skillset at all stages of communication, healthcare and safeguarding provision.
  • Paediatricians must remain alert to MSHT activity in their local area.
  • Paediatricians are strongly encouraged to attend specialist training on the topic of child MSHT.”

Download the full guidance document

 

More resources from RCPCH

The Balkans Freedom Forum, 25 May 2022

 

THE BALKANS FREEDOM FORUM is a conference organized under the care of the President of Albania His Excellency, Mr. Ilir Meta, and with the care of Amb. John Richmond,  Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person (ret) which will take place on 25 of May 2022 at Tirana International Hotel & Conference Centre
This interdisciplinary conference will be a platform to discuss Human Trafficking’s current trends in the Balkan countries, especially in this time of refugee crisis from the war in Ukraine and the collapse of Afghanistan.
Different personalities and NGOs that work in the field will cover various topics related to human trafficking that will be relevant to social service providers, lawyers, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and other key community actors.

On the Commemoration of the International Day of Missing Children

 

On the 25th of May, Lithuania marks the International Day of Missing Children.

Commemorating this day aims not only to sympathise with those whose children have gone missing, but also to promote the prevention of this phenomenon.

 

We invite you to visit the sculpture “Mommy…!” next to the Lithuanian and Children’s Youth Centre, to tie ribbons on the branches of the trees with your children, and to take time to talk to your children about the difficulties they are facing, to listen to what they have to say, and to inform them about the dangers of being away from home. 

 

The day was chosen  because of a story that shocked the United States when, on 25 May 1979, six-year-old Ethan Patz disappeared  without a trace on his way to school at a bus stop just a couple of blocks from his home. On the initiative of the  Missing Persons Families Support Centre, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania added this day to the list of  commemorative days in 2006. The European Union has a single 116 000 hotline for reporting missing children  around the clock. This hotline is administered in Lithuania by the Missing Persons Families Support Centre  (hereinafter – the Centre), which is a member of the international organisations Amber Alert Europe and the  International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (USA). In 2018, the Centre, together with the US Embassy,  the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania, the Lithuanian Police Department and Facebook, launched  Amber Alert Facebook, the first emergency child tracing system in Lithuania. 

Child disappearance is a real, dynamic and growing problem both in Lithuania and across Europe. Around 250 000 children go missing in Europe every year. According to the Missing Persons Register, there will be 2,251 cases in Lithuania in 2020 and 1,575 cases in 2021. In the first quarter of 2022, 427 cases. Missing Persons Families  Support Centre, in cooperation with the General Emergency Centre (112), answered 196 calls on hotline 116 000 in  2020, compared to 190 calls in 2021. On 24th of February in 2022 people are fleeing the country in large numbers  since Russia started the war in Ukraine. According to the administrators of the 116 000 hotline in Ukraine, the NGO Magnolia, 2 100 children have disappeared since the war began. And this number is growing every day. 

There are different reasons for the disappearance of children. Children who are missing, unsupervised or constantly running away from home can become an easy prey for criminals. They are at risk of becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

More information 

Missing Persons Families Support Centre 

Contact for enquiries:  Arūnė Bernatonytė [email protected] or +370 670 52725. 

Prevention video “Every minute is precious” (1:00 min):