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Report from the EU Civil Society Platform Meeting in Brussels

 

EU Commission at the Civil Society Platform Meeting in Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013
EU Commission at the Civil Society Platform Meeting Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013

EU Civil Society Platform was officially launched on the 31 May 2013 in Brussels. Civil society organisations from EU Member States, working against trafficking in human beings, were invited to apply for participation. Applications were examined by the European Commission ensuring a maximum number of participants with a geographical balance to include all Member States if possible and taking into account a diversity of areas of expertise and type of organisation in order to allow the EU to understand, with a comprehensive approach, the reality which could effect the EU policy. A hundred organisations were represented in the first meeting of the Platform.
The second meeting of this Platform was scheduled for 9-10 December 2013. Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, welcomed new representatives from four non-EU Members States such as Albania, Turkey, Ukraine and Morocco. The aim of this meeting was to update participants with the recent developments of the European Commission and to present an outline of the Online Platform, and to discuss in the light of this information as a basis for assessing and further improving the policy.  The representatives also participated in workshops on topics suggested earlier by Members of the Platform. The three areas of discussion were:

  • Involvement of the Civil Society in the Implementation of the Directive on Trafficking in Human Beings
  • Victims-Centred Approach: Identification, Assistance and Protection, National Referral Mechanisms
  • Demand Reduction

There was an introduction to each working group done respectively by the speakers who participate in the meetings of the Informal Network of National Rapporteurs or Equivalent Mechanisms (NREM): Venla Roth – NREM Finland, Patricia Le Cocq – NREM Belgium, Romulus Nicolae Ungureanu – NREM Romania.
Full description of the workshops is available here.

Cecilia-Malmström-EU-Commissioner-for-Home-Affairs
Cecilia Malmström, EU-Commissioner for Home Affairs

All participants were invited to the networking dinner at the hotel. It was very kind of Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, to express her interest and give attention to the work being done by the Civil Society Organisations. She stressed that the phenomenon of Human Trafficking is now more and more recognised even among youth. Having received many school/college groups she said that all had raised questions about Human Trafficking. This is a sign of a growing awareness consequent to many raising activities being undertaken by many stakeholders working in the field.
All groups had good discussions which brought many points for consideration and suggestions for future actions. Among the most important, there were:
GROUP No. 1.

  1. Involving civil society is fundamental for the fight against HT. It is good to have diverse ngos as members of the Platform.
  2. It is important to raise awareness of the Directive within society using the media to explain the role of the document.
  3. Directives should have a direct effect. However the experience shows that some countries who have been informed about transposition of the Directive have not really implemented it.
  4. Provisions and actions of the civil society to enable them to work and to prioritise for the benefit of the victims: non-punishment, access to assistance, right to protection, right to compensation, protection from the secondary victimisation.
  5. Shadow reporting from the different stakeholders working in the field of anti-trafficking would help the European Commission to see progress made on the implementation of the Directive. Full transparency is very important to get a real picture of the situation.
  6. Stress on prevention – important to use education.

GROUP No. 2.

  1. There is a lack of formalisation of the role of the ngos in the recognition of the victims of HT.
  2. Emphasis should be put on collecting evidence from the victims. Some victims are excluded from being identified.
  3. Promoting victim’s rights on the website banners.
  4. Address the lack of protection resulting from free movement.
  5. Need of training among social workers.
  6. Internal trafficking is on the rise. More victims of labour trafficking noticed.
  7. Mapping of ngos and services and what they provide would be helpful.
  8. Promoting new models of guardianship.

GROUP No. 3.

  1. Big challenge for many ngos is the issue of funding. EU funds are a chance for many but hard to access and manage (example of an ngo which had to close down).
  2. Different forms of trafficking – different groups of interests.
  3. Exit programme for labour exploitation.
  4. Problem of domestic servitude.
  5. The same demand for prostitution is equated with the same demand which results in sexual exploitation.
  6. Gender dimension when speaking about demand.
  7. Postulate to penalise/criminalise the demand on the EU level (directive) and harmonise regulations.
  8. Human Trafficking is the only violiation of Human Rights with money behind it.

 

Work in Groups, Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013
Work in Groups, Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013

Concluding the Second Meeting of the EU Civil Society Platform, Myria Vassiliadou led our attention to the day of our meeting, 10th of December which is Human Rights Day. We observed one minute of silence for all those for whom we work, victims of present-day slavery. She thanked all participants for their presence, work on the topics and reminded about the coming challenge for the EU Member States which are obliged to measure reduction of the demand.
Full report from this meeting will be public and available on the EU Civil Society Platform website.
Leaflets showing variety of participants
Leaflets showing variety of participants

Putting Victims First: Conference on Protecting and Promoting the Rights of Victims of Trafficking

 

Poland, Warsaw, 26-27 November 2013

Four members of RENATE attended a conference organised by the Ministry of Interior of Poland, the Governments of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, the Council of Europe, and the International Organization for Migration. The aim of this conference was to provide a platform for the exchange of knowledge and best practices as regards protection of the rights of victims of trafficking in line in with the second “P” (protection) of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Conference in Warsaw, Poland, 26-27 November 2013
Putting Victims First, Conference in Warsaw, Poland, 26-27 November 2013

Clear and consistent protection of the rights of victims of trafficking in human beings is essential. The Council of Europe Convention sets specific rights including emergency assistance, safe accommodation, compensation, legal redress and rehabilitation. About 200 participants from 35 countries discussed the substantive content of these measures. In this regard, the discussions were focused on four related themes:
 
Identification of victims of trafficking with a specific focus on labour exploitation
Human trafficking occurs where there is a possibility for financial gain through the exploitation of persons for work. It takes various forms and victims may be found in many different sectors and activities. Even if over time there have been advances in the development of procedures for identification of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, there is relatively less experience with regard to identification of victims of trafficking for labour exploitation. Hence, one challenge rests in ensuring that representatives of institutions whose jobs involve contact with persons who may be trafficking victims have the expertise necessary to detect risk factors and refer this information to those competent to formally identify victims. Identification helps to prevent further exploitation and ensures that the victims are informed of their rights and can be referred to an appropriate specialized agency for further assistance.
Taking these considerations as the starting point, the discussion focused, among others, on:

  • The importance of formalised procedures for the identification of victims of trafficking;
  • The benefits of multidisciplinary approach to identification.

 
Standards of safe accommodation for victims of trafficking
One of the first steps to be taken in respect of victims wishing to escape from the control of traffickers is to provide a safe and secure shelter. Despite the prospect of continued abuse, many victims decide to stay with the traffickers because leaving can involve more danger and greater vulnerability. The lack of appropriate accommodation often results in victims returning to their abusers after an initial escape,. It is therefore crucial that real and practical options for safety and security are made available to different categories of victims of trafficking. Each victim is unique and requires and desires bespoke assistance.
The discussion focused on:.

  • The importance of shelter accommodation not being made conditional on the victims’ willingness to act as a witness or being linked to the duration of the criminal proceedings;
  • The importance of clear legal basis on which victims of trafficking can invoke protection and assistance;
  • Striking a balance between the need to protect victims and the respect for the victims’ rights and privacy.

 
Legal redress and compensation
A human rights-based approach puts the human rights of trafficked persons at the centre of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims. It also entails the effective prosecution of traffickers, putting the emphasis on the right to effective remedy for the victim. The Council of Europe Convention provides for the right of victims of trafficking to compensation from the perpetrators as well as compensation from the State. However currently, the challenge rests in the procedures that provide trafficked persons to receive redress and compensation in a holistic manner, but are only provided with ad hoc measures which are primarily aimed at facilitating criminal investigation. At present, even when there are possibilities in law for granting compensation to victims, in practice this right remains theoretical and few victims benefit from compensation schemes.
Taking these considerations as the starting point, the discussion focused on:

  • Access to legal assistance and free legal aid;
  • The importance of having different avenues for claiming compensation (both from the perpetrator and the State);
  • Building the capacity of relevant professionals to enable victims to benefit from the legal possibilities to claim compensations;
  • Guaranteeing the right to compensation across border (portable justice).

 
Ensuring victims’ rehabilitation and safe return
When it comes to discussing long-term solutions with the victims of human trafficking there are different options that should be made available to them: integration, move to another country in which the victim has a residence permit, return to the country of origin. All alternatives should be in principal equally accessible and valid to them.
Some victims of human trafficking might be vitally interested in returning home. The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme offers them such a possibility. Such services are always based on victims’ informed consent and are extended only to those who have freely chosen to return home. Yet, return of the victim of human trafficking to the country or community of origin is not always the optimal solution. While considering return, all possible threats related to becoming victimised a second option should be always taken into account. Victims who express an inability or unwillingness to return should be offered alternative, safe and efficient options. Whatever alternative is considered, it should be analysed together with a risk analysis and, if necessary, a risk-management plan. In this regard mainstream social services and labour market also has a role to play. These challenges were addressed during the discussion.

  • Co-operation between countries of destination and countries of origin in order to ensure proper risk assessment and safe return, as well as effective reintegration of victims.

 
Full description including conference materials can be found here: Putting Victims First The summary of the discussions will be available in English, Russian and Polish at the conference website www.victimsfirst.pl at the beginning of next year.

Report from the Vatican Workshop

 

Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery.

Destitute Peoples and the Message of Jesus Christ.

2nd – 3rd November 2013 Casino Pio IV (Vatican City)

The initiative for this awareness raising workshop on Trafficking in Human Persons was taken by Pope Francis who called on the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences together with the FIAMC (The World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations) to organise, in this initial stage, a preparatory workshop.  This workshop examined human trafficking and modern slavery in order to establish the real state of this phenomenon and to follow an agenda to combat this heinous crime. The overall coordinator was Very Reverend Marcel Sanchez Sorondo who worked painlessly to keep each person attending the workshop in constant communication with all necessary information before the event. We thank him for the acceptance of our application and for his extraordinary care to the detail in every manner required.

Vatican, Nov. 2013
The Assembled Group meeting with Pope Francis

Approximately 100 people attended this event of whom 20 presented papers and represented the organisations mentioned above, whilst the others had registered as observers. It was encouraging to know that on arriving at the assembly room, all observers were called participants, all had a voice and all had the opportunity to submit proposals for the conclusion of the days together.
Three members of RENATE attended this workshop, Sr Marie Hélène Halligon, (Good Shepherd – Paris), Sr Patricia Mulhall, (Brigidine – UK), and Sr Imelda Poole (IBVM – Albania). The ‘observers’ were mainly from grassroots non-profit organisations, NGOs or mission groups, working in the field of anti-trafficking, representing a variety of organisations such as social services, the police, law and the justice system, people working in shelters (safe houses) in direct action with victims. Among them were Members of Parliament desiring to make changes in the law, on the side of the victim, NGOs working in the field, and bishops and clergy from the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
Every continent in the world was included and all continents reflected on their experiences of trafficking in human persons within their own cultural differences.  It really exposed the manner in which traffickers are sharp in using conditions of poverty, the ‘culture’ of vulnerability and weaknesses in the law are prevalent, thereby enabling the exploitation and trafficking of people to maximum effect.
Many statistics were shared regarding the extent of this evil. Many millions have been identified as trafficked in the EU yet the number of victims declared as trafficked in the courts had fallen in the recent past by 32%.  The issue of corruption was explored both at the level of government and within other statutory systems. Global poverty and a breakdown of values were seen to be the root causes for the increase in the trafficking in human persons.  Many of the vulnerable succumbed to the deceits of traffickers with promises of ‘a way out’ of poverty, leading to a better life for their families and for themselves.
The conference reflected on the phenomena of migration and movements of peoples around the globe, which has reached momentous proportions and which is truly historic in this 21st century. Globalisation and the issues of cross border protection laws are impacting on the journey taken by the migrant.  The migrant is also suffering from a global culture that rejects the migrant and which has lost the concept that all people are made equal and all are created in the image of God. The ‘commodification’ of the human person has forced the migrant person into the underworld of the illegal market and often into the hands of traffickers. In addition, the secularisation of many societies and the challenge for the people on the edge of society, facing an inhuman and undignified life has created an ambience ripe for the traffickers to be successful in their trade. The change in the numbers living below the poverty line plus this explosion of secularisation in many countries has led to a growth in the culture of individualism. This culture has replaced a fair and just society which emphasises care of the vulnerable and which puts the community at its heart.  The belief that we have a global crisis of values was discussed at length. Many would see this as being one of the prime reasons for the growing phenomena of human trafficking today.
Many questions were asked, including: Where do we stand in the midst of this evil practice?  Are we on the side of the victim?  Do we look for compensation for the victim?  Has every country, including the Vatican State, signed the European Convention Against trafficking?  How do we view the immigrant? Are we aware that the only way forward is to build partnerships to combat this crime? Are we in partnership with others in the field, networking with them or are we working in isolation?  Are illegal employment agencies operating in our vicinity?  Who is making checks and who cares about the exploitation of the migrant worker? What about the question of ‘Demand’ – the engine that fuels the ‘supply’ of people who can be easily exploited and manipulated into the ‘trade in human persons’ (to use Pope Francis’ words)? The trafficking in organs was also an important issue discussed during these two days.
Several organisations were represented and some shared the fruit of their work in prevention or direct action against trafficking.  Two examples of organisations attending the conference DNA Prokids and Walk Free Foundation gave input on their work
DNA-Prokids (http://www.dna-prokids.org), an international project on human trafficking prevention and fight using genetic identification of victims and their relatives. DNA testing ensures ‘lost’ children can be reunited with their families and taken out of ‘risk’ of being stolen or adopted for profit. One case story from ProKids related to Haiti at the time of the Earthquake in 2010. Twenty-five children told their parents had perished in the Earthquake, were stolen from the Haiti, taken by bus and found in Columbia. Of the twenty-five, 18 were reunited with their families. The remaining 7 children, whose parents could not be traced, were given legal protection by the Columbian government to be adopted by Columbian families.
The ‘Walk Free Foundation’ launched in 2012, Perth, Western Australia, is making a scientific analysis of those trafficked, the countries from which they are trafficked, the routes they take and the destinations they reach in ‘The Gobal Slavery Index 2013’. This document was made available to the conference. Their website encourages joining in a world-wide campaign to end modern day slavery. Over a million have joined to date. (cf websites for both organisations)
Professor Suarez-Orozco (University of Los Angeles, California) presented a paper examining the devastating psychological and cultural effects on trafficked children who are deprived not only of their present, but also of their future as many of them do not have the mental, physical or psychological means to overcome such trials. Describing the phenomenon of human trafficking, Suarez-Oroaco said it amounts to a $30 billion enterprise – larger than the GDP of Jordan.    It is the third-most profitable global criminal enterprise, after drugs and armaments. The professor highlighted the fact that up to 75 per cent of all detected trafficked people are women and children. (an estimated 27 million trafficked people in the world today) He noted that the percentage of children is increasing, saying: “In the U.S., it is estimated that of all the detected trafficked people, 50 per cent are under age.”
(http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/11/05/human_trafficking:_an_ancient_infamy_with_a_new_face/en1-742628  of the Vatican Radio website).
Vatican, Nov. 2013
Sr Marie Hélène Halligon, presenting the Mosaic to Pope Francis

An added privilege during the weekend was meeting with Pope Francis – the lead person for this event. Sr  Marie Hélène Halligon had bought with her a mosaic made by girls who were trafficked in Paris. She presented this mosaic to Pope Francis. Sr Patricia Mulhall and Sr Imelda Poole also had the privilege of meeting Pope Francis and asked for his blessing on the work of RENATE.
Vatican, Nov. 2013
Sr Imelda Poole giving greetings from RENATE with Sr Patricia Mulhall in the background

Several proposals were submitted at the end of this workshop and all were collated into one single document. This document was accepted by the participants. No proposal was omitted.  The conclusion reached was that all proposals should be submitted to Pope Francis as an outcome of the workshop with an introductory paragraph to be written after the workshop had been concluded. This paragraph would be agreed by the participants of the conference before submission. The workshop closed on Sunday evening, 3rd November. The networking achieved by the members of RENATE is still having effect as we return to our various countries of work. We feel very grateful that we were welcomed into this forum.
Marie Hélène Halligon (Good Shepherd), Patricia Mulhall (Brigidine), Imelda Poole (IBVM)
 

Support the Campaign against Human Trafficking

 

Patricia Mulhall_ICN
STOP Human Trafficking

This Friday, 18 October is European Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Sister Patricia Mulhall, csb invites readers to pray and take part in a number of actions to support the campaign. She writes:
Worldwide, 27 million adults and 13 million children are victims of human trafficking around our world. Although human trafficking is often the ‘invisible’ international crime of the 21st century and accurate statistics are difficult to acquire, researchers estimate that more than 80% of victims are female. Their stories tell of abuse, devastating physical, emotional and psychological harm. This crime is a fundamental violation of human rights, tantamount to slavery. Victims are lured with false promises of well-paid work. Often instead, their passports or identification papers are confiscated and they are held in forced bondage. Due to language barriers, lack of knowledge about available services, and the frequency with which their traffickers move them, both they and their perpetrators are difficult to track.
An estimated $32billion is generated from human trafficking every year. Little wonder it is a ‘thriving’ trade in the exploitation of vulnerable human persons.
Read more on ICN – Independent Catholic News.

Morality in Media Urging Hilton to Follow Example

 

Hilton-Hotel-Arlington-Flickr
Will Hilton follow the example set by The Nordic Choice and Omni Hotels and Resorts, who have stopped selling pornography? (Bernt Rostad/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Morality in Media praises Scandinavian hotel chain The Nordic Choice, which announced the end of pornography in their 171 locations to stem child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Petter Stordalen, owner of The Nordic Choice hotel chain, decided to act after working with Unicef’s campaign to help child victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
“The porn industry contributes to trafficking, so I see it as a natural part of having a social responsibility to send out a clear signal that Nordic Hotels doesn’t support or condone this,” Stordalen explains.
MIM Executive Director Dawn Hawkins says all U.S. hotel chains should follow suit.
“We urge Hilton to look at the reasons The Nordic Choice, and other chains such as Omni Hotels and Resorts, have stopped selling pornography,” Hawkins says. “Do they really want to be in the business of contributing to trafficking and sexual exploitation?”
 
Read more here: Morality in Media Urging Hilton to Follow Example
Source: http://www.charismanews.com

Scandinavian hotel chain removes porn from its TVs, replaces with art channels

 

Petter_Stordalen_2009-06-03_(bilde_05)
Petter Stordalen, owner of Nordic Choice hotels

OSLO, August 27, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of Norway’s major hotel chains has removed access to pay-TV porn and replaced it with contemporary art channels.
Petter Stordalen, owner of Nordic Choice hotels, said he will remove access to pornography in all of his establishments in favor of providing access to high-end contemporary art, according to aGuardian report.

Stordalen said he came to the decision after becoming involved in campaigns aimed at stopping human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, which is fuelled by pornography.
“The porn industry contributes to trafficking, so I see it as a natural part of having a social responsibility to send out a clear signal that Nordic Hotels doesn’t support or condone this,” Stordalen said.
“It may sound shocking or unusual [to remove pay-TV porn], but everyone said that about the ban on smoking. We were the first hotel chain in the world to ban smoking and people thought we were crazy. Now it’s totally normal for public spaces to be smoke-free,” he added.
A spokesman from the chain’s flagship hotel in Oslo, The Thief, said that reaction to the no-porn rule has been positive.
 
Read more here: Scandinavian hotel chain removes porn from its TVs
Source: http://www.lifesitenews.com