Trends in Human Trafficking – Issue no. 10 – EEPA News Highlights

Dear readers,

The EEPA team is pleased to present the 10th issue of the newsletter on Trends in Human Trafficking between the Greater Horn of Africa and Europe, covering May and June 2020. Please feel free to forward this information to others or invite them to subscribe via this link. If you have information to contribute, do not hesitate to contact us.

Research & Reports:

Report on impact of COVID-19 on human trafficking and smuggling
New research by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) investigates how dynamics of human trafficking and smuggling are likely to be affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The report observes that despite of closure of state borders, the current situation does not affect movement of migrants and refugees. Contrarily, this may cause even greater exposure to human trafficking and smuggling. The UNODC particularly zoomed in on the situation in Libya and the Central Mediterranean route which continues to raise concerns due to the presence of notorious trafficking networks. Additionally, economic impact and increasing levels of unemployment are likely “to increase cross-border trafficking in persons from countries experiencing the fastest and longest-lasting drops in employment”.  In its recommendations, the UNODC called for more comprehensive monitoring and structural data collection on implications of COVID-19 on human trafficking.

Europol reports on usage of modern technologies in human trafficking and smuggling
The 4th Annual Activity Report of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre at Europol analysed operations, developments and ongoing challenges relating to human trafficking that migrants and refugees were facing in 2019. The report highlights the vulnerability of unaccompanied migrant children due to risks of “violence, abuse and exploitation along migration routes towards and within the EU” and that exposure to human trafficking and smuggling is higher in remote areas. Additionally, new modus operandi has been observed in relation to usage of digital technologies, messaging services and various mobile applications. These are used by criminal networks, smugglers, as well as by migrants and refugees who “are often dealing with the payment for the facilitation from their home countries”.

Report investigates governmental efforts to eradicate human trafficking
In the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. Department of State examines standards for eradicating human trafficking in terms of prevention, protection and prosecution that are used in specific countries all over the globe. The report divides each country into three tiers based on the governments’ efforts to combat human trafficking in their respective state. Assessment of the report includes among other topics adoption and implementation of laws against trafficking, protection of victims and measures adopted by governments to eradicate illegal groups of traffickers. According to the report, in seven consecutive years, the government of Eritrea did not show any efforts to prosecute perpetrators and protect victims of human trafficking neither to prevent such crimes from happening. Three countries, including Yemen, Libya and Somalia, were labelled as “special case” due to reported prevalence of instability and ongoing presence of human trafficking networks.

Study calls for more ethical inclusion of survivors of human trafficking
In the study by Sue Lockyer, the author analyses publications that involves perspectives of survivors of human trafficking in anti-trafficking initiatives. This research showed that survivors’ voices are underrepresented in the organisational structures and anti-trafficking efforts. Based on analysis, the study calls for “more ethical and equitable” practices of organisations combating human trafficking. Engagement of victims should be placed at the centre when designing anti-trafficking programmes not only as “after-thoughts”. According to the author, laws, policies as well as research publications may benefit largely from the experience and expertise of victims of trafficking otherwise they “will remain limited”.

Report exposes danger on migration route from Ethiopia to Yemen
A short video report by Charles Emptaz exposed dire realities of the Ethiopian ethnic group Oromo, on route from the Oromo province, through Djibouti to Yemen. As most of migrants and refugees cannot afford to pay smugglers to be transported by trucks or cars through the dessert, most people carry out dangerous routes on foot. Witnesses and victims describe daily dangers en route which include kidnapping, imprisonment, torture and extortion for ransom by human traffickers. Those who manage to cross the sea with the help of smugglers, face further hardships in Yemen as they fail to find satisfactory livelihood opportunities.

Challenges of victims of human trafficking amidst COVID-19
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) brief shows that victims of human trafficking are more likely to face additional hardships amidst COVID-19 crisis. Decreasing identification of victims, lower access to healthcare and education, increasing unemployment, halted operations of NGOs and greater exposure to the virus are some of the recent challenges brought by the pandemic. It has been reported that some of the rescued victims of human trafficking “are unable to go home because borders are closed”. The UNODC urges authorities to continuously monitor situations of human trafficking victims, to ensure protection, law enforcement and access to justice in the context of COVID-19 responses.

Research calls for enhanced training of professionals in human trafficking response
A new empirical study by Kirsten Havig and Neely Mahapatra aimed to explore the knowledge of health care professionals responding to human trafficking and identification of victims. Authors identified that knowledge of health care providers does not correspond to the real need in a frontier context. The findings suggest that health care professionals should be provided with relevant training which concerns topics such as identification of victims, minimizing communication barriers, understanding cultural context of victims, as well as effects of trauma-related treatment. Alongside with enhanced education and training, authors recommend development of “standardized screening and response protocols”.

INTERPOL anticipates raise of trafficking and smuggling activities due to COVID-19
INTERPOL’s assessment investigates the short and long term impact of COVID-19 on human trafficking of migrants and refugees. The current crisis posed geo-political and socio-economic challenges that could lead to an increase of these illicit activities. Although it may seem that due to the many restrictions and curfews some of the criminal activities have been hindered in a short term, the INTERPOL chief demonstrates that traffickers continue “to convince desperate people to use their services”. In the context of African countries, it was observed that migration routes from the Horn of Africa “continues to show signs of activity where the evasion of border controls has, in some cases, taken a fatal toll on the lives of migrants”. Increase of smuggling and militia activities in Libya are also anticipated in coming period.

Human trafficking in humanitarian context is likely to increase
According to a new report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation are likely to increase due to the current COVID-19 challenges. In addition, trafficking in the context of an emergency situation and humanitarian crisis is likely to be amplified. “The coronavirus is likely to worsen this situation, increasing both the number of displaced people in states affected by conflict and humanitarian crises, and their vulnerability to trafficking” says the report. It is observed that traffickers are able to adapt to the new circumstances and take advantage of reduced law enforcement.


Media articles:

Nigerian asylum seekers disappear after arrival to the Netherlands
According to investigative journalists, almost half of the Nigerian asylum seekers disappeared after arriving to the Netherlands in 2019, reports VOA news. Disappearances are suspected to be linked to human trafficking networks across the European Union. The Dutch Centre Against Human and Child Trafficking called for stronger approach of the Dutch police by creating knowledge and expertise and establishing a “West African human trafficking unit” to prevent further disappearances. Such practices are not unique only in the Netherlands but also across other countries in Western Europe.

European and African ministers discuss stronger cooperation against smugglers and traffickers
The interior ministers of 5 European and 5 North African countries held a virtual information exchange to discuss enhanced cooperation to combat smuggling and human trafficking. Ylva Johansson, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, underlined the need for partnership with the third countries in which “the ultimate objective remains reducing human trafficking and the loss of lives”. Despite increasing pledges of the European Union (EU), human rights organisations warned that the EU fails to protect migrants and refugees that are in need. According to Amnesty International (AI), the EU pushes responsibility to protect on the third countries which “often goes hand in hand with human rights violations” said Julia Duchrow, AI Deputy Secretary General.

Migrants and refugees killed in Libya by human trafficker’s family
At least 30 migrants and refugees were murdered and several others wounded by the family of a Libyan trafficker in Mezdah, southwest of Tripoli. Al Jazeera reports that this crime occurred as a revenge for a death of a human trafficker who was killed. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that this attack is a “reminder of the horrors migrants have to endure at the hands of smugglers and traffickers in Libya”. The IOM urged Libyan authorities to initiate thorough investigation of the killings and bring perpetrators to justice.

Refugees report on ongoing human trafficking realities in Libya
Victims of human trafficking in Libya described practices of perpetrators who continuously kidnap, detain and extort money from migrants and refugees, reports the Financial Times. Detainees are asked to pay up to $3,000 for their release and to be able to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Libyan detention centres are known to be run by human traffickers, gangs and militia groups. According to Liam Kelly from Danish Refugee Council, “[m]igrants have become income generating assets and the detention centres are the real money makers”.

 Picture story describes realities of Ethiopian migrant en route
In a picture story by Safa Msehli and Muse Mohammed, stories of Ethiopian migrants and refugees who flee their country and experience practices of smugglers and traffickers within the Horn of Africa are portrayed. Some people travel through the Eastern Migration Route towards Yemen and Saudi Arabia, others chose to migrate to Europe via Central Mediterranean Route. Migrants and refugees have to pay large amounts to smugglers to be transported through the dessert. In many cases they are captured, tortured and obliged to pay ransom for their release.