The Battle Against Human Trafficking in Europe : Policy Evaluation

Last Updated: 06 Jul 2020
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The Battle Against Human Trafficking in Europe: Policy Evaluation Samira Misra Webster University Abstract This paper seeks to evaluate the policies of the European Union directed at combatting human trafficking in all its forms. The current plans of the European Commission and the United Nations are presented, and the rationale behind them is scrutinized. Research shows that the European Union recognizes the problem of human trafficking as a complete denial of human rights, and proposes action to bring to justice the responsible persons.

The European Unions perspective is one based on the pillars of democracy: freedom, transparency, the law, and security. This paper argues that the aforementioned perspective is not sufficient in ameliorating the situation. It proposes a broader approach to the construction and design of a comprehensive strategy, encompassing the root causes underlying human trafficking, as well. The chief weaknesses of current policy appear to be its implementation, and EU wide co-ordination.

With the identification of these weaknesses, this paper proposes significant reform by regulatory agencies for tangible action against the catastrophic reality of the trafficking trade. Ana, a girl from Quito, Ecuador fell in love with her husband at the young age of 20. What she thought would be the best decision of her life, ended up leading her to living in a nightmare. Her husband worked at a brothel in Quito, hiding his profession from Ana. Ana left her husband, along with her toddler, and moved in with her mother jobless. She soon met the owner of a small salon, a lady who would talk about Europe, and the lifestyle of the people there.

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Ana quickly became starry-eyed and accepted an offer to move to Paris to make money. She was completely unaware of what lay ahead. When she reached Paris, she came to know that no job awaited her, other than prostituting herself on the streets to pay back her debts for her trip to Paris. Her pimps collected most of the money she made, and escape was too risky as the trafficking networks were systematic and even connected with law enforcement. Ana did not return to Ecuador for three years, and lived her life, risking it every single day just to make ends meet. This is only ne of thousands of horror stories of the victims of human trafficking (Knierim, 2012). According to the United Nations Office of Drugs & Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is defined as the: The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (UNODC, 2012). The sex trafficking industry has become the fastest growing industry in the world, and offenders continue to slip between the cracks of the legislative system (UNHCR, 2010). Data indicates that the number of trafficked victims detected in 2006, in West and Central Europe was 7,300 (UNODC, 2006, p. 229).

Transcrime suggests a multiplier of 20 for every victim detected, which means that it is estimated that the actual statistic is 20 times what is known, This leads to a possible statistic of 140,000 victims in Europe. It is hard to say what should cause greater concern, the staggering numbers (which are a conservative estimation), or the fact that the trafficking industry continues to boom. Most trafficked victims in Europe come from Balkan countries, and from Russia. Europe also shows the largest number of nationalities of victims than any other region of the world.

Victims are recruited into the sex trafficking trade through force, misrepresentation, false promises and coercion. Young, vulnerable women are lured into traps through promises of opportunities such as jobs, study abroad programs, modelling careers, vacations and the like. Research shows that acquaintances, friends or relatives largely conduct recruitment within Europe. (UNODC, 2010, p. 225) Human trafficking is a deeply complex, and multi-faceted issue. It has three main dimensions: criminal, human rights, and socio-economic.

In order to effectively combat human trafficking in the European Union, measures that tackle all aspects need to be devised and implemented. This essay will seek to illustrate that the European policies thus far have taken a very limited viewpoint to the challenges of trafficking, and need to extend their vision to incorporate solutions to the root causes of the sex trade. In the first part of this paper, the policies (to date) to fight trafficking will be examined, as well as the rationale they stem from.

The second part will identify the main problems with these policies, and propose changes necessary for the EU to effectively confront the prevalence of trafficking. European Union Policy European Commission In the past decade, the widespread problem of human trafficking has gained increasing media attention. However, this rise in media coverage does not imply an increased effort for measures to be taken. Rather, it triggers a false sense that enough is being to combat trafficking. Yet still, few nations remain immune to its adverse effects. Most countries are source countries, transit countries, or destination countries.

It is important to note that within Europe, every nation has its own policy framework against the issue, but scrutinizing each system is beyond the scope of this research paper. For the argument, which this essay seeks to propose, it is more useful to examine the policies of European organizations dedicated solely to trafficking. The discussion will be a chronological presentation of the steps taken by the European Union. The role of the European Commission (EC) is to propose legislation in the collective interest of the EU, as well as assist in its implementation.

Usually, the commission initiates legislation to meet requirements under EU treaties. In May 2003, under the Brussels Declaration on human trafficking, a policy framework was introduced, which recognized the importance of addressing the human rights violations of trafficking that threatened the freedom and security of victims. It called for cooperative action on regional, national, and international levels by governments, regulatory bodies and NGOs. Thereafter, in 2004 a EU directive was issued Directive2004/81), and introduced a “reflection period” in which victims could recover without being deported for illegal migration. If they decided to cooperate with enforcement officials and provided concrete information about their traffickers, they would be granted a temporary residence permit through which they could pursue education and career opportunities (European Commission, 2004, p. 261). Although the EC released some policy statements between 2004 and 2011, there were very few noticeable changes in strategy. More recently, the EC has taken a supposedly comprehensive initiative against this phenomenon.

In 2011, the European Parliament established a framework outlining legal punitive measures concerning trafficking offences, as well as preventive measures to aid victims (Directive2011/36/EU). Under this policy, offenders of trafficking (including partial participants aiding in the process) were subject to five to ten years of imprisonment depending on the crimes they committed. Furthermore, the Directive stated, “Member States may decide not to prosecute or impose penalties on victims of trafficking in human beings for their involvement in criminal activities which they have been compelled to commit. ” (European Commission, 2011, p. 01). The aftercare procedures consisted of the possible provision of accommodation, medical care, and interpretation and translation services. Children were required to receive psychological assistance and access to education. All victims were required to be protected sufficiently from abusers and trauma. Preventive measures highlighted by Directive2011/36/EU included education and awareness initiatives, and training for police in identification of offenders and victims. The main improvement in this directive from the last version was that it had broadened the definition of trafficking to include more forms of exploitation.

The Directive2011/36/EU demonstrates an approach largely concerned with the criminal and human rights violation aspects of human trafficking, but ignores the circumstantial aspect (the socio-economic conditions which lead people to trafficking). According to the Directive’s understanding, trafficking of persons is first and foremost an absolute negation of basic human rights for the immense physical and psychological abuse endured by victims. Secondly, it is a criminal offense (or several) on the part of the ffenders, as they partake in heinous crimes of violence, oppression, and cruelty, which trivialize the worth of a human life. The latest strategy was released in June 2012, when the EC adopted the, “EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016). ” This strategy essentially puts forward detailed concrete steps to meet the aims of the previous Directive2011/36/EU. Main objectives of the agenda are identification and protection of victims, increased legal action against offenders, enhanced coordination and cooperation of states in policy implementation, and increased preventive measures.

The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings can only be analyzed conceptually for shortcomings as it has just been put into place. However, despite periodic revisions, it is clear that the EC’s view remains essentially unchanged. The outlook continues to be concerned with law enforcement and organized crime (European Commission, The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings, p. 4-6). United Nations

Other than the EC, the United Nations also recognizes human trafficking as a pressing concern for the international community, and acknowledges its duty to mobilize Member States to act against it. In 2002, the UN TIP Protocol (also known as Palermo Protocol) was adopted by the United Nations to “…prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children” (U. N, 2002, p. 1). In December 2003, this protocol came into effect, signed by 117 countries. The UNODC is responsible for upholding the Palermo protocol.

Additionally, the UNODC launched its Blue Heart Campaign, directed at increasing awareness and involvement in combatting the trafficking trade. Evaluation Sex trafficking is a complex issue, which requires an in-depth analysis and understanding of the various dimensions of the problem. The phenomenon of trafficking is immoral and unethical on numerous counts, and therefore the fight against it must confront them all. After a closer insight into the sex trade, it can be reiterated that there are socio-economic, criminal and uman rights standards our society is based on, all of which human trafficking neglects. This section identifies the key loopholes in current anti-trafficking procedures. Data Collection A rather significant issue, which inherently cripples the efficiency of policy-making, is the lack of data on human trafficking. This expresses a concern not with the content of the policies, but rather with the construction of policies, as knowledge of the nature of trafficking remains incomplete. “Concrete, reliable data on human trafficking is an essential basis for all good programs, interventions, policy and legislation.

Without this data it is not possible to know the extent or the true nature of the trafficking problem, nor understand the complexity of the issues involved. As a result, practitioners and policy-makers are unable to act and react appropriately and effectively”(International Centre for Migration Policy Development, 2008, p. 205). There are several reasons for the dearth of empirical data and statistics. Perhaps the most noteworthy reason is the unwillingness of victims to come forward and report the crimes committed against them.

This is because they fear for their personal safety, or fear being prosecuted for crimes such as illegal immigration, prostitution or drug abuse. In extreme cases, victims are monitored by offenders and do not have the access to law enforcement. Other contributing factors are obstacles in legal frameworks, poor data collection methodologies, and reluctance of agencies to share their information. This undermines the foundation upon which policies are devised. Approach to combatting trafficking EC policies against trafficking largely ignore problems such as gender inequality, race and class differences.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 43% of trafficking victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of which 98% are female (ILO, 2008, p. 3). Although Europe has long recognized the importance of gender equality, it does not view the problem of human trafficking as representative of gender inequality. Trafficking predominantly affects women, and it is because women are disadvantaged compared to men in society, that they are more susceptible to becoming victims. The leading cause of trafficking is the desperate need of potential victims to flee from poor standards of living.

Presently, the EU is not taking sufficient measures to support the empowerment of disadvantaged (impoverished, uneducated, ethnic minorities, etc. ). The harsh EU migration and border laws limit the options women have for better prospects. This can (sometimes) be the reason for women seeking illegitimate and unregulated forms of escape. The argument propositioned here, is that thus far, the EU has taken a closed view of trafficking, and has designed policies aimed at short- term “band aid” solutions, and has failed to devise long term strategies to eliminate the conditions which cause people to resort to risky and life-threatening behavior.

In addition, these short- term policies are not gender responsive either, and lack mechanisms to help women (specifically) overcome their susceptibility to such crimes. Human trafficking is a result of a chain of events based on unjust social and economic environments, to which women frequently fall victim. Women are physically weaker and hence more vulnerable to physical harm. In addition, the cultural and societal norms (e. g. gender stereotypes, and social roles) that surround most women aggravate the likelihood of the exposure to crimes against them.

As of now, gender equality policies apply mainly to EU citizens, whereas most victims of trafficking are non- EU citizens. It is counterproductive to have policies seeking to ensure equal rights, which fail to extend to outsiders (even illegal immigrants). Current anti-trafficking measures have been said to be “collateral damage”, as they explicitly authorize government action against victims such as deportation, and prosecution for petty crimes (Uhl, 2010, p. 122). These ostensibly supportive measures are in effect punitive for women and discourage them from seeking help.

Surprisingly, nearly half of trafficking recruiters are also women. Female victims, desperate to find an escape from the unfathomable abuse, become exploiters over time (UNODC, 2010, p. 227). Policies addressing the socio-economic problems faced by women in areas of unemployment, welfare, education, immigration etc. would empower them, and prove more productive in tackling the issue from preventive, punitive and rehabilitative aspects. In essence, the European Union fails to recognize that human trafficking is partially the end result of societal gender inequalities.

Although there are separate initiatives battling gender inequality, under social agendas, the European Union can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ by incorporating these measures in fighting trafficking as well. Rathgeber (2002) asserts, “Integrated and operational structures need to be developed…to counteract the feminization of poverty (p. 163). Academic critics of European trafficking policies (such as Rathgeber and Askola) endorse integration of strategy and procedures to overcome social gaps such as economic class, gender, or race. Legislation

The next key shortcoming in the European policy is the implementation of legislation. Although laws have been passed deeming trafficking of humans as punishable, few nations have used them to convict perpetrators. The implementation of the law so far has been lacks, which could only have further discouraged victims to come forward and testify. Despite the European Commissions view of trafficking from a crime and justice standpoint, enforcement officers are not equipped with the proper tools for identification and protection of victims, and not all legal institutions are equipped with legislative frameworks.

Frequently, victims are offered through front businesses such as beauty salons, massage parlors or escort services, which make it hard for police officers to diagnose as trafficking rings. The United States Department of Health & Human Services (2008) reports that often victims do not consider themselves to be victims, because they are unaware of their rights and are kept too isolated from communication to be informed of the action they can take. In addition, in Eastern European countries, as well as a few others, trafficking rings are so well connected, that they branch as far out as law enforcement authorities.

This could mean that police officials are willing to either turn a blind eye to, or participate in criminal activity. In order to have legislation actually serve its purpose, European policies must categorize concrete ways for the identification of offenders and victims. Law enforcement agencies assume that there are clear, visible signs of trafficking activity such as locked doors, low sanitary standards, same working and living space, etc. Rather than relying on superficial symptoms like these, Uhl (2010) suggests that victims can be better detected through a profile, or characteristics based on demography and behavior (p. 23). Identification ties back into being able to recognize that particularly vulnerable slice of society- uneducated and poverty stricken. Legal measures should also guarantee the protection of victims from criminal prosecution and not leave it to the judgment of the enforcement officer, or circumstances. The current Directive does not state this as a requirement, and these grey areas are considerable obstructions to effective execution of justice. According to the UNODC, law enforcement bodies also do not place sufficient priority on charging offenders, as they are aware that it rarely results in a conviction.

A large majority of victims and witnesses are deported, or locked up for crimes, which makes their statements unusable in court proceedings. In addition, offenders disappear under the radar and are known to flee the country as well. The failure of legislation is result of other shortcomings, rather than a shortcoming in itself. Each inefficiency snowballs to make the presence of legislative tools futile. Harmonization It seems sound to assume that the European Commissions policies reflect uniform standards between nations because they claim to act in the interest of the European Union.

However, this is not the case. Although, the EC has the same anti-trafficking strategy for all its members, different states interpret and enforce the policy differently, and some states simply do not uphold the EU standard. The absence of co-ordination and co-operation is yet another way in which convicted offenders escape investigation in court. The initial intention of the strategy is lost across borders, as states continue to pick and choose slices of strategy to administer.

This is principally dependent on the level of regulation in each country, as well as on national priorities. In several source countries, especially in the Balkans, corruption is widespread and dishonest officials often work with traffickers or turn a blind eye to unlawful acts (Rathgeber, 2002, p. 153). By definition, what constitutes trafficking also varies from country to country. Some definitions include several forms of exploitation (e. g. bad labor conditions), while others only deal with more severe forms.

Therefore, the Directive, which is supposed to tackle the same form of trafficking in a dependable way across nations, ends up being translated to suit specific national standards such as border control, labor conditions, migration law, and sexual morality (Askola, 2007, p. 214). A tentative solution is the establishment of a regulatory legislative body in charge of enforcing the correct application of strategies of the European Commission. Its branches should be established in Member States to regularly monitor execution in accordance with the EU standards.

Moreover, the strategies need to avoid ambiguities, which encourage nations to modify implementation. The Directive2004/81 allows for authorities to determine whether temporary residence should be granted or not, based on specific circumstances. In having such loopholes, enforcement bodies become more occupied with the determination of these circumstances, and less with the primary objective of assistance and rehabilitation. European countries have shown limited understanding of trafficking as an issue in itself, despite all the research and analysis there is available on the subject.

When examining European Commission approaches to social and economic discrepancies across EU nations, it is evident that there are programs in place, which are built with the primary purpose of establishing equality, and eradicating hierarchy based on gender and class. However, these steps have been relatively ineffective, and lack synchronization across borders. Trafficking is one of the outcomes of the failure of the EU’s measures against poverty, income inequality, lack of welfare and benefit programs, and social services for children, education opportunities, psychotherapy and medical assistance, and rehabilitation.

It is these dire circumstances that create desperation for money and through it, the prospect of an improvement in living standards. Conclusion Human trafficking is a problem, interlinked to several existing social, political, geographical and economic disadvantages. In order to formulate a comprehensive response to control the proliferation of trafficking, and the tragic outcomes on victims, the European Union must pay heed to the social and economic root causes.

The strategies of the past decade reflect a generally conservative approach, as well as one that deals with trafficking as a problem in it, rather than a problem resulting from several other problems. There is little real improvement in the progressive refinement of EU policies. The European Commission has recognized the scope of the problem, and urgency to combat human trafficking, yet the measures are proving unsuccessful. Rather than portraying human trafficking as merely a variation of organized crime, it is critical to acknowledge its social, political, economic and criminal aspects as well.

Human trafficking is an outcome of failed social measures, ones that are not directed to fighting the conditions from which it arises. Synchronization and coordination between European nations are the first steps to remodeling strategy design and enhancing the influence of legislation. Gender sensitivity and assistance to women should be a top priority in EU policy, to help women shift from their underprivileged position in society. From an evaluative perspective, until these actions are taken, we are likely to see iterative adjustments to current EU policies with little advancement in the right direction.

References Askola, H. (2007). Violence against women, trafficking, and migration in the European Union. European Law Journal, 13(2), 204-217. Doi:10. 1111/j. 1468-0386. 2007. 00364. x Cochintu, I. , Tutunaru, L. , Stoicu, N. , & Valea, D. (2011). International cooperation against human trafficking. Juridical Current, 14(2), 78-86. Nieuwenhuys, C. , & Pecoud, A. (2007). Human trafficking, information campaigns, and strategies of migration control. American Behavioral Scientist, 50(12), 1674-1695. Rathgeber, C. (2002). The victimization of women through human trafficking – An aftermath of war?.

European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law & Criminal Justice, 10(2/3), 152-163. doi:10. 1163/157181702401475340 Skrivankova, K. (2006). Combating trafficking in human beings. International Review of Law, Computers & Technology, 20(1/2), 229-232. doi:10. 1080/13600860600705135 Surtees, R. (2008). Handbook on anti-trafficking data collection in south-eastern Europe: Developing Regional Criteria. Uhl, B. (2010). Lost in implementation? Human rights rhetoric and violations — A critical review of current European anti-trafficking policies. Security & Human Rights, 21(2), 119-126. Action against trafficking in human beings. " 47 Countries - 800 million citizens - Council of Europe. N. p. , n. d. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. <http://www. coe. int/t/dghl/monitoring/trafficking/default_en. asp>. Communication from the commission to the European parliament, the council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions. (2012). European Commission Strategy Directive 2011/36/EU of the European parliament and of the Council: On preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its Victims and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA. 2011). Official Journal of the European Union. “Europe & Me - Human Trafficking in Europe”. Europe & Me Magazine . N. p. , n. d. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://www. europeandme. eu/16brain/882-human-trafficking-in-europe? showall=1>. “La Strada International. " La Strada International. N. p. , n. d. Web. 02 Nov. 2012. <http://lastradainternational. org/? main=home>. Trafficking in persons to Europe for sexual exploitation. (2011). Trends in Organized Crime, 14(2/3), 224-234. doi:10. 1007/s12117-011-9136-y

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