Trends in Human Trafficking – Issue no. 11 – EEPA News Highlights

Dear readers,

The EEPA team is pleased to present the 11th issue of the newsletter on Trends in Human Trafficking between the Greater Horn of Africa and Europe. 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:

Research zooms in on human trafficking and smuggling as an organized criminal business
Lucia Bird, author for the organisation ENACT (Enhancing Africa’s ability to Counter Transnational Crime ) wrote a report on human smuggling in Africa as a growing multi-million dollar criminal industry. The report warns that attempts to stop and criminalise migration can make it more lucrative for criminals and more dangerous for migrants and refugees. It covers the intermixing of the terms trafficking and smuggling and notes that it covers trafficking only when it intersects with smuggling. The report  analyses the climb the issue of human smuggling on the agenda of African governments, the legislative approaches taken by the African governments to criminalize human smuggling, and how these approaches have been put into practice. In conclusion, the report presents “recommendations for African policymakers, legislators, law enforcement and media” that can be introduced within the “realistic parameters of the current political context.” The report epilogue looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the dynamics of human smuggling.

Report shows extreme human rights abuses in human trafficking
A new report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) portrays the far-reaching human rights abuses, including exploitation, human trafficking and torture, that thousands of refugees and migrants experience on their journeys to Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The reported data shows “killings and widespread violence of the most brutal nature” that is inflected against people fleeing war, violence, and persecution. Over the years 2018 and 2019, the findings present that at least 1,750 people died on their journeys, “along the land section of the Central Mediterranean”, which makes it the deadliest route for refugees and migrants in the world. The report documents the thin line between smuggling and human trafficking in countries such as Libya or Sudan. “[W]hat begins as smuggling may turn into trafficking, including in the event that people are unable to pay the smuggler on arrival in Libya”. The report concludes by stating that great efforts need to be made to strengthen the protection of the refugees and migrants taking these routes.

Report from the European Commission on the fight against human trafficking
On 20 October, the Europen Commission reported on the current situation in the fight against human trafficking in its yearly report to the European Parliament and the European Council. The report states that human trafficking has not decreased amid the global COVID-19 pandemic but human traffickers have changed their modus operandi through usage of internet, social media and technologies . The report notes that the European Union (EU) and third countries have increased cooperation, especially in the field of implementation of national and transnational referral mechanisms. This dialogue has increased cross-border law enforcement and judicial operational actions. Nevertheless, the different legal frameworks on the prosecution of human traffickers keeps numbers of convictions and prosecution very low. The Commission calls for deeper implementation of the EU’s Anti-trafficking Directive should be promoted by the EU Member States and a new EU strategic approach in the agenda of tackling the organised crime of human trafficking. 

New research on smuggling of migrants in Libya
A new publication by Gabriella Sanchez, research fellow at European University Institute, explores the relationship between smugglers and migrants and refugees in Libya. The research challenges narratives used by the European Union in the context of smuggling. According to the author, the EU appears to be more concerned with preventing irregular migration rather than “people who are forced to rely on smuggling”. Interviews reveal that smuggling, as a facilitation of migration, has been considered a legitimate livelihood opportunity and it has been carried out by ordinary people along the migration routes. Facilitation of migration has a strong link to a community life and often benefits several people such as taxi drivers and shopkeepers, states the author. The research shows that services of smugglers to cross the Mediterranean sea are often a consequence of “a series of violent acts, the overall sense of insecurity and its implications”, including human trafficking practices such as abduction and extortion for money. 

Shift in human trafficking operations in East Africa
New data by the ENACT (Enhancing Africa’s ability to Counter Transnational Crime) project suggests a shift in a human trafficking ring from East Africa to the Middle East. In January, ninety-six women were stopped at Nairobi’s international airport on their way in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The women have been victims of a well-established trafficking ring in the region, concealed as employment agencies. The criminal network consists of three links. The first link includes recruitment brokers who are regionally located and bring people across from their home countries to Kenya. The second link comprises of Kenyan-based contacts who “receive the people and act as the country’s employment agencies”, and bring the people from Kenya to the host country. The third link refers to the traffickers who pretend to be foreign employment agencies. Research by the ENACT showed a change in the human trafficking ring, in which the organisation of the “third link” is carried out completely by East Africans.

The Human Rights Council adopts resolutions on trafficking in persons
During its 44th session, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a new resolution on “human trafficking, especially women and children” strengthening rights of victims of human trafficking. Through the resolution, the HRC calls on the member states to increase tehir efforts to combat human trafficking and promote “greater synergy between anti-trafficking efforts”. The HRC recognized that new technologies are increasingly used by human traffickers as well as that “the risk of trafficking is heightened in humanitarian crisis situations”. In addition,  the resolution extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons for three years in order to increase human rights by improving “protection, support and empowerment of victims of trafficking, especially women and children”. 

Research on nexus between transit migration, human trafficking and smuggling
An article by Roxane de Massol de Rebetz, researcher at Leiden University, challenges the notion of ‘transit migration’ in Intra-Schengen border mobility as a concept to better understand linkages between human trafficking and smuggling. Studying the situation and vulnerabilities of migrants in transit areas can shed light on trafficking and smuggling of migrants within the Schengen area, states the author. The author highlights that while on paper human trafficking and smuggling of migrants are strictly distinct, in practice the difference can be very small and constitutes a “gray area”.  Overlooking this “gray area” leads to a wrong classification of migrants into pre-conceptualized categories which can have harmful effects on their protection procedures. Literature recognizes “the conflict of interest existing between prioritized anti-trafficking, anti-smuggling, and anti-irregular migration policies” that, according to the author, can have a negative impact on the applicability of these policies. 

Interprofessional education beneficial for professionals working with victims of trafficking
Research by Robert Lucio, Lisa Rapp-McCall and Patricia Campion highlights the importance of interprofessional education in  addressing  human  trafficking. Elements such as trauma-informed theories, assessment,  practice  skills, prevention   strategies, networking and advocacy strategies are proposed to be beneficial for interprofessional education modules designed for students working with victims of human trafficking. Authors analysed the impact of the new methodology on students, and showed that it increased connections with local NGOs and other key professionals. Students reported improvements in identifying strategies and collaborations with external actors, and in “addressing the issue of human trafficking in their local area”. 

Media articles:

UNODC and GIZ continue cooperation on combatting human trafficking of migrants in the Horn of Africa
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have signed an agreement that will provide funding of EUR 6,5 million for UNODC to carry on as “implementing partner of the second phase of the Better Migration Management (BMM) program from 2020-2022”. The BBM program intends to “improve the management of safe, orderly and regular migration” in the Horn of Africa as more than 10 million people have been coercively displaced or are searching for refugees in other states.

UNHCR calls for action against criminal human trafficking after death of asylum seeker in Libya
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) appeals for “renewed action against smugglers and traffickers who continue to inflict unimaginable suffering to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Libya” after the death of an Eritrean asylum seeker in Tripoli. The man had been previously held by traffickers at Bani Walid, a town in north-western Libya, from which thousands of individuals have arrived in Tripoli in very poor physical condition. The Libyan authorities state that they have taken steps against armed groups and traffickers, but UNHCR calls for more action as individuals that have suffered torture continue to arrive.   The UNHCR calls for international support to provide help to the Libyanauthorities to combat human trafficking and to open safe travel routes for refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers.

Significant number of trafficking victims at risk of deportation by the UK Home Office
New data shows that thousands of victims of trafficking, including children, are denied the right to stay in the United Kingdom and are at risk of deportation by the Home Office, reports The Guardian. Findings have uncovered that of “almost 4,700 confirmed foreign victims of trafficking, just 28 children were granted leave to remain in the UK over a four-year-period.” Between 2016 and 2019, 4,695 individuals were identified as foreign modern slavery victims in the UK but the Home Office did disclose how many of them were children. Experts, however, believe it could be up to half. Chief executive of campaigning charity Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (Ecpat), Patricia Durr shared that they “were shocked to find that, in a four year period, only 28 child victims of trafficking were granted leave to stay.”

Coast Guard commander Abd al-Rahman al-Milad has been detained in connection with human trafficking and smuggling
Libyan authorities have arrested and detained Abd al-Rahmen al-Milad, known as “Al-Bidja”, for his involvement in human trafficking and human smuggling in the North African country. He was wanted by INTERPOL and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) accused him of intentionally sinking migrant boats, the facilitation of smuggling and of direct torture and violence against migrants and refugees. He was chief of the Libyan regional coast guard for the north-western coastal town of Zawiya, where many refugees passed through detention and faced violence and abuse by the guards. 

Shift in modus operandi of trafficking and smuggling networks amid COVID-19
A panel of experts on migration, human trafficking and smugglingcame together to discuss the changes they have seen emerging with the rise of COVID-19 and the growth of money mobile services within the criminal networks that facilitate trafficking. However, the experts also agree that the pandemic presents a chance to reflect on the role of technology and the fight against human trafficking. The experts argued that protection should be key and that prosecution, in new and innovative ways, should focus on the quality of arrests, not quantity. Just as criminal groups take advantage of increased interconnectivity, so can the efforts taken to stop their exploitation, state the experts.

UNODC and local authorities raise awareness on human trafficking in Niger’s border areas
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), together with Niger’s national anti-trafficking agency, organized events to raise awareness on human trafficking and smuggling that are taking place at border crossings across the country. UNODC stated that many of the officials working along Niger’s border areas lack knowledge on human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The events intended to provide information on “the definitions of human trafficking and migrant smuggling, trafficking during times of conflict and the national laws in place to combat these crimes”. Niger is often point of “departure, transit, and destination” for human trafficking victims, especially for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe, states UNODC.