Delegates from RENATE attended the Symposium in Brussels, on Thursday, 27th November 2014, where practitioners, senior officials, non-state actors and policy/decision makers at EU, national, regional and local levels in Europe gathered to share best practice, develop and progress multi-agency work and encourage greater political will to properly recognise the needs of all victims of human trafficking.
In addition to raising awareness of the various dimensions of human trafficking and examining the needs of the victims of human trafficking, delegates had the opportunity to consider the following;
- European Approaches and Perspectives to tackle Human Trafficking.
- Cross-Border Law Enforcement and Prosecution of Traffickers.
- Protecting Vulnerable Groups and Raising Awareness; The Need for a Victim-Centred Approach.
- Improving Cooperation Amongst Key Actors at International level.
We had the opportunity to exchange ideas and engage in thought-provoking topical debate as the Symposium presented on the need for Policy development through to current research findings in the topic of human trafficking.
The findings of GRETA’s first Country Evaluation Reports, which profiled thirty five countries and their attention to prevention of human trafficking, were referred to by the Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Ms. Petya Nestorova, who opened proceedings with a presentation on European Approaches and Perspectives to Tackle Human Trafficking. Differing legal frameworks across Europe create enormous difficulties for victims of trafficking and sexual and labour exploitation, with a critical need for standardised legislation internationally if we are to prevent, protect and prosecute. The Netherlands was singled out for being exemplary in training both Judiciary and Prosecutors in the specialism of human trafficking.
Progress on prosecution and conviction remains problematic because of the complex nature of cases, according to Ms. Ieke Vries, researcher at the office of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children. A key finding of her research is the centrality of the recruitment process, as this lies at the start of the human trafficking process. The research states that three aspects of the recruitment process must be taken into account in order to guide anti-trafficking measures worldwide;
2. the modus operandi of recruiters;
3. the roles and characteristics of recruiters and traffickers in general.
Following discussions, all present agreed the need for, and the value of, greater cooperation between national and international agencies. An additional proposal from the group discussions was the need to raise public awareness about trafficking and improve training in order to better identify victims. It was interesting to note the extent to which criminal groups and traffickers have become much more efficient in the use of technology as a means to recruit and traffic victims. This in turn poses serious challenges to police and other relevant services, but this is not insurmountable. In our work against human trafficking, we can better use the technology to network together, as well as interfacing with and keeping in contact with rehabilitated victims over longer periods of time.
The term ‘’Follow the money’’ was repeated time and time again by Ms. Chloe Briere, Ph.D. Fellow at the Global Studies Institute, University de Geneve. Her research confirms the free movement of persons within and beyond the European Union has created opportunities for increased criminal activities, including trafficking. A crucial value for traffickers is the money they can generate and Ms. Briere’s research indicates the value of minimising the traffickers ability to make money from trafficking as being a significant deterrent.
We all shared Dr. Carrie Pemberton-Ford’s view that our aspiration when working with victims of human trafficking, should be that they deserve nothing less than a flourishing future. Arising from discussions, she told us how easily the issue of forced labour can be neglected because it can be so easily hidden behind the term employment. We also voiced the concerns at the unacceptably poor levels of resourcing and professional supports to victims e.g. interpretation, translation and funding/budgets to first-responders in several EU-countries.
Clear, ethical issues of corporate social responsibility were considered during the day, with questions raised about who will step into the breach now that Mare Nostrum is being phased out. This is likely to be a key issue for discussion at the forthcoming UNHCR meetings on the 10th and 11th of December next. We cannot expect private shipping vessels to replace the work of protecting and rescuing, hence the repeated emphasis on constantly improving cooperation and collaboration amongst the key actors at national and international levels.
There was consensus on the importance of supporting the re-integration of victims, as a moral, social and ethical responsibility. ECAT (European Communities against Trafficking) have completed a two-year, EU funded research project which examined what actions are being taken by one hundred companies and businesses in the UK, to socially re-integrate and provide employment opportunities for victims of trafficking. The research will be widely available following its official launch in early December.
Dr. Pemberton-Ford reminded all of us that we should acknowledge the great people (mostly women) on whose shoulders we stand in our work. They have opened minds and eyes for the work that has to be done to fight Human Trafficking.
A key feature of the Symposium was the importance of making contacts, in the expectation that greater collaboration will take place amongst all who work with a common vision. There was a strongly held belief that if we work together, we will work smarter in our efforts to prevent, protect and prosecute. Strengthening partnerships takes time, but for many present, the Symposium provided a powerful opportunity to establish links, the first building blocks for collaboration and cooperation.
RENATE Communications Person