Trends in Human Trafficking – Issue no. 14 – EEPA News Highlights

Dear Readers,

The EEPA team is pleased to present the 14th 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: 

UNODC report zooms in on human trafficking amid global pandemic
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a new report looking at the effects of the global pandemic on human trafficking. In six chapters, UNODC examines how COVID-19 has affected the scale and characteristics of human trafficking. “The pandemic has pushed trafficking in persons further underground, making any reliable estimation of shifts in the scale of trafficking in persons during the pandemic extremely difficult”. Other negative effects on victims of human trafficking include higher risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, lower access to services, loss of livelihood and tighter control at hands of traffickers. The study also found out that perpetrators increasingly use social media and other online platforms to recruit new victims. Organisations fighting human trafficking also experience challenges in their operations such as problems with funding, planning and coordination, reduced staff members, delays and restrictions in justice mechanisms and lower access to victims of trafficking. The report concludes with recommendations to agencies, states and law enforcement organisations to improve responses to human trafficking. Recommendations include the need for stronger evidence-based research, better coordination of anti-trafficking efforts on all levels, as well as need for strengthened plans, strategies and legal frameworks.

Report highlights importance of gender-sensitive approach in anti-trafficking interventions
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published a new report exploring existing prevention, protection and prosecution within anti-trafficking efforts with a particular focus on gender aspects. According to the report, gender-sensitive approaches to all forms of trafficking have received very limited attention so far. The study reveals several gender-related factors affecting prevention of human trafficking such as structural gender-based inequalities, societal gender norms, patriarchal structures, and lack of gender-sensitive prevention strategies. Protection of victims should also reflect gender approaches as an incorrect identification of a victim may lead to ineffective protection mechanisms. “[M]ale victims need psychological support, medical assistance and healthcare that is different than that needed by female victims,” states the report. Victims often reject assistance due to inadequate services offered to them. OSCE continues to argue that gender stereotypes are also embedded in criminal justice systems. That may constitute “a form of discrimination that can result in certain victims receiving less attention or protection”. Through their  recommendations, OSCE calls for stronger interventions towards ‘underserved populations’, awareness raising and youth education, as well as increased capacity building to address gender biases. This report aims to serve governments and organisations as a tool for more effective responses to human trafficking. 

Collection of research papers on human trafficking and smuggling
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in collaboration with the Mixed Migration Centre published a collection of research papers by experts, academics and practitioners who participated at a virtual policy workshop in February 2021. The overarching topic focused on so-called ‘mixed migration patterns’ along the Western and Central Mediterranean route. Twenty five research, policy and advocacy notes are divided into 6 thematic areas such as gaps in national protection frameworks, regional responses to mixed movements and perspectives on smuggling policies. The theme on critical approaches to human trafficking and policies contains 4 papers looking at complexity of anti-trafficking policies and initiatives, solutions proposed for victims of human trafficking, and gaps in protection of victims. Johanna Bögel discusses in her paper long-term solutions for victims of human trafficking by using case studies of policies applied in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In Ethiopia “return and reintegration is the only long-term solution mentioned, though a vague reference is made to “reintegration options or services that may or may not be available””. Another article by Ana-Maria Murphy-Teixidor, is looking at actors involved in smuggling of migrants and refugees in Libya. The author points out that many non-Libyan smugglers are involved in the smuggling networks in Libya which is often omitted in research. Even though non-Libyan smugglers  recruit migrants and refugees to conduct a journey they “do not act as major transporters along this route, but rather as brokers and as “connection men and women””. Several papers of the published volume include recommendations for policy makers for strengthening human trafficking and smuggling policies.

A new study on resilience of human trafficking survivors
An article by Logan Knight, Yitong Xin, and Cecilia Mengo studies the resilience of survivors of human trafficking by reviewing peer-reviewed articles and interdisciplinary publications. Authors looked at definitions, theories and factors associated with resilience of survivors.  According to results, the topic of resilience of human trafficking survivors is not extensively covered by research-based literature. Existing research features mostly forms of sex trafficking while other forms of human trafficking as well as various groups of survivors are underrepresented. The authors state that these gaps are “a human rights and social justice issue that must be urgently addressed”. The review further showed that resilience of human trafficking survivors is similar to resilience of victims of other human rights violations. However, survivors of human trafficking may show other ways of resilience which requires further attention of research community. Policies are also particularly important for promoting survivors resilience however, “[c]urrent human trafficking policies generally do not explicitly target “resilience” in individuals or at-risk populations”, states the article.

New US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
A new annual Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State provides an analysis of the global trends and dynamics in human trafficking. The report starts by reflecting on challenges in anti-trafficking initiatives amid the global pandemic. According to the report, human traffickers quickly adapted to the new situation caused by the COVID-19 crisis while several risk factors increased for already vulnerable and marginalized populations. The report continues to zoom in on the government’s involvement in addressing issues of human trafficking. Each country is placed in one of three tiers in a list based on their compliance with regulations outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. Several governments showed “a documented “policy or pattern” of human trafficking, trafficking in government-funded programs, forced labor in government-affiliated medical services or other sectors” including Eritrea and South Sudan. Libya has been categorized under a ‘special case’ list as “instability, conflict, and lack of government oversight and capacity in Libya continued to allow for human trafficking crimes to persist and be highly profitable for traffickers”.

Publication highlights connection between refugee recognition and human trafficking
A new publication by Catherine Briddick and Vladislava Stoyanova examines the legal aspects of human trafficking of refugees under international refugee and human rights law while taking a feminist approach. The research aims to point out that women and girls are susceptible to particular forms of human trafficking. The authors further claim that there is close connection between refugee status determination and human trafficking. “[R]efugees and other forced migrants can fall victim to trafficking when they travel irregularly in search of protection, or when they seek livelihoods while lacking legal rights”. This chapter has been published as a part of The Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law.

Media articles:

Public-Private Partnership meeting on addressing human trafficking in Africa
Over 270 actors from public and private sector gathered at the 4th Regional Expert Group Meeting organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in order to strengthen the partnership for combatting of human trafficking on African continent. Participants discussed needed cooperation for addressing the human trafficking with local and regional law enforcement actors as well as best strategies for “post-pandemic situation”.  The meeting brought forward several recommendations such as  the need for “enhancing the private sector’s understanding of the crime of human trafficking and increasing capacity building programs available to businesses to help mitigate human trafficking risks within their operations”. 

Libya criticised for “horrific” human rights violations of refugees and migrants
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 13,000 people have been prevented from reaching Europe and forcibly returned to Libya between January and June this year. Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International says that once migrants and refugees are intercepted at sea and returned to Libya they are “immediately funnelled into arbitrary detention and systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labour and other exploitation with total impunity.” The European Union (EU) is facing criticism for the complicity of frontline European member states in enabling and assisting the Libyan coast guard to intercept people at sea despite the known human rights violations occurring in Libya. Human rights activists and organisations state the EU’s calls to improve detention conditions are insufficient and increasingly tone-deaf to the reality asylum seekers and refugees face in Libya. Lucie Eches, a Médecins Sans Frontières protection team member interviewed by The New Humanitarian, stated that “[t]he protection response cannot be just about distributing food and relief items” and “[t]he only meaningful protection is to provide safe shelter from abusers and immediate evacuation.” Eltahawy stated that a recent report by Amnesty international on Libyan detention centres has concluded that “[t]he entire network of Libyan migration detention centres is rotten to its core and must be dismantled. Libyan authorities must close all migration detention facilities immediately and stop detaining refugees and migrants.” 

PACE addresses the risks faced by migrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East
The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called for increased parliamentary mobilisation on the humanitarian situation for refugees and migrants from North Africa and the Middle East after exchanging views with numerous experts on migration. The decision came after the Sub-Committee on Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings of PACE had traveled to Lesbos Island to meet with representatives of civic organisations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to investigate the non-respect of the EU-Turkey migration agreement at refugee camps. The Sub-Committee had been met with concerns regarding the long waiting times for asylum claim approval, the absence of integration programmes for refugees and the number of refugees dying when attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The Standing Committee called on national parliaments to mobilise for the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Global Compacts for Migrants and Refugees by all Council of Europe member states. The well defined framework and long reaching instrumentalisation of the United Nations was perceived by parliamentarians as a mechanism that could provide “an unprecedented push forward for the protection of the human rights of refugees and migrants”. 

The United Nations reports on human trafficking in Sudan
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) wrote an article on the state of human trafficking in Sudan. The number of refugees attempting to enter the country, which is already a primary transit destination, has recently increased due to the conflict in Tigray. The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that over 60,000 Ethiopians, half of them children, have crossed the border since November 2020. Since 2014 Sudan has established specialised courts to counter human trafficking, however the impact of the initiatives, such as the National Committee to Combat Trafficking, has been limited. Sudan has been improving its protection for the victims of trafficking after legal discrimination towards refugees impeded investigations. Frequently victims of human trafficking were percieved as criminals and would be imprisoned in the same facility as their traffickers. Suspects would reportedly threaten refugees and scare them into keeping silent which would consequently ruin investigations. In response the Prosecuting Attorney established safe houses in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Danish Red Cross and other partners to keep victims separate from suspects and convicts. The increasing trust between victims and investigators is leading to a higher success rate on criminal investigations, states the article. According to a judge of the specialised court interviewed by UNODC “[t]he view of victims of trafficking has changed, which has also changed the way that law enforcement agents deal with them. That has had a positive impact on the results of investigations.”