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Document presented by the Greek Presidency at the meeting of the working group on Western Balkans : Preventing and fighting human trafficking in South-Eastern Europe (14/05/03)

Horizontal issues

Organised crime, trafficking and corruption and other Justice and Home Affairs matters

“Organised crime is a key impediment to stability and the European prospect of the Balkans. It nourishes corruption and ethnic conflict, impedes the normal functioning of democratic institutions, the rule of law and market economy, and finances illegal armed groups. Combating organised crime and corruption is a major objective of EU policy in the area and the Greek Presidency places it high on its agenda.

The successful outcome of the London Conference of November 2002 set out a framework for our work in this area, as part of the SAP and the Balkan European Integration Process. In line with the London Statement which mandates it (as well as the Italian Presidency) for the follow up, the Greek Presidency will focus on co-ordination among law enforcement agencies and relevant Ministries of countries in the region, creation of the necessary legislative infrastructure in line with EU standards, judicial and police reforms, cross-border co-operation. Work should concentrate in the areas for priority action set by the London Conference for each country, as well as the relevant recommendations contained in the 2002 SAP annual review.

The Greek Presidency has announced at the aforementioned Conference specific measures to ensure the follow up of the actions adopted for key areas. Ways and means for further involvement of the Council and the Member States (through Council Working Groups, reports of Heads of Mission in the area, etc.), as well as the establishment of regular contacts with regional initiatives, including the SEECP, are also considered.”

* “Greek EU Presidency’s Programme for the Western Balkans, December 2002”


The Basic Issue

Trafficking in Human Beings is one of the most profitable and inhuman fields of organised crime, which thrives in S/E Europe as an area of origin, transit and final destination. Trafficking in Human Beings should be dealt both in a preventive, and in a suppressive way. First and foremost, it is a flagrant violation of human rights. Protection of the trafficking victims, especially women and children, is urgently needed. Furthermore, it is a threat to development. Therefore, a long term anti-trafficking strategy is needed.

The Presidency advocates that both a short-term strategy to deal with the immediate consequences of this phenomenon of modern slavery, and a long-term preventive development strategy in order to minimize the conditions under which Trafficking in Human Beings and generally Organised Crime flourishes, should be formed.  The regional aspect of the problem and its interconnection with Organised Crime, Illegal Migration and Corruption makes it a threat to the rule of law and potentially to the stability of the countries of South-Eastern Europe.  
1. Facts and Reality in S/E Europe

The rise in Trafficking in Human Beings for sexual and economic exploitation and forced labor in South-Eastern Europe over the last 10 years has been dramatic. All S/E European countries are invariably source, transit and/or destination countries. Profound poverty, breakdown of civil society and a weak rule of law have allowed organized crime to flourish. Women have suffered disproportionately in economic and social terms and are continually seeking emigration as their only solution. In addition, there is strong evidence of rapid increase of children trafficking in the region.

Trafficking in Human Beings is extremely profitable and has already generated $7 to $12 billions annually worldwide. According to International Center for Migration Policy, trafficked women can be bought for $1500 and be sold for $350 per hour, covering their buying cost in just five hours! Experts estimate that 700,000 to 2 million people are trafficked globally every year, and that 300,000 to 500,000 people are trafficked through Eastern Europe. At least 170,000 of them are trafficked annually into S/E Europe. It is characteristic that 90% of foreign migrant sex workers in the region are victims of Trafficking, but only 35% are recognized as such, and only 7% of this number receives long-term assistance, according to an OSCE/UNICEF/UNOHCHR report.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that there are no reliable statistics on the Trafficking of Human Beings. This is as much a symptom of the lack of data-gathering procedures and of data-sharing internationally, due to lack of legislation or will, as it is of the underground nature of trafficking.

Trafficking in Human Beings is principally perpetrated by organized crime networks, which generate huge illicit profits with little risk of loss or prosecution. Official corruption is largely intrinsic to its success. Traffickers use advertising in newspapers as well as front companies (e.g. employment and travel agencies) to lure their victims. Recruitment by family members or acquaintances, false promises of marriage to a suitor abroad and the selling of children and teenage girls by their parents are other known methods. Kidnapping is not uncommon. Deception and coercion, confiscation of documents, debt bondage, confinement and violence are used to trap and prevent the escape of victims. Women's illegal status, isolation and unfamiliarity with surroundings compound their ability and courage to seek help.

Trafficked children: There are two categories of child trafficking in S/E Europe: Trafficking of children under 12 for begging, and trafficking of teenage girls for sexual exploitation. Mostly, these children are trafficked for forced labor particularly from Albania.

 

To reduce the incidence of child trafficking, specific action should be implemented such as in the field of passport and visa regulations, including the possibility to require that all children over the age of five must be in possession of their own passport and the extension of submission times for visa applications in respect of children to allow for background enquiry in the origin and destination countries. In addition, research and development of systems for registration of children could contribute to the prevention of trafficking in children once set up.

* text from the Brussels Declaration on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, September 2002.

Vulnerable people from developing countries with the human need to emigrate abroad to search for a humane life, are forced under the threat or use of violence, and held against their will, treated with cruelty under slavery practices for economic exploitation. They are deprived from their basic human rights and freedoms, and finally when they have reached their ultimate functional “exploitable” use, they are disposed. 


2. International Response and Regional Approach

Trafficking in Human Beings is not a new phenomenon, given that various international legal instruments have been developed since 1904 (International Agreement on the Suppression of White Slave Traffic), to enhance the resistance of the international community against this “scourge”. The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the UN Convention on the Child’s Rights, and the latest legal tool, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Human Beings, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, highlights the urgent need to combat the “modern slavery”.

Trafficking is a transnational problem that can only be addressed with all affected countries acting together on a regional base. Therefore, to a certain point National Action Plans of the S/E European countries have to be to an extent “harmonized”, since traffickers will easily manipulate loopholes in the system. Counter-trafficking must become a key issue in dialogue with countries of the region. Signing and ratification of relevant instruments and agreements against Trafficking in Human Beings and implementation of their terms into national laws are all needed. E.U. could encourage S/E European countries to do likewise. The E.U. accession process provides a prime opportunity to address the issue.

At the regional level, agreements include the Palermo Anti-Trafficking Declaration of S/E Europe (December 2000), the Agreement of Cooperation to Prevent and Combat Trans-border Crime (the SECI Agreement, May 1999), as well as the Brussels Declaration on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, which emerged from the “European Conference on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: A Global Challenge for the 21st Century”, in September 2002.


Α. The European Union

In 1996 the European Commission developed a european strategy to prevent and fight against trafficking in human beings, with a first Communication on trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Since then, the EU has been actively engaged in building a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach towards the combat of the phenomenon. 
In the same year, the mandate for Europol was extended in order to enable the organisation to combat trafficking in human beings. In addition, the launching of the STOP programme initiated the support to the actions by the persons responsible (public officials and NGOs) for the fight against and prevention of trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children.
The following year, the Council adopted a "joint action" calling on member states of the European Union to review their national criminal legislation as regards trafficking in human beings and judicial co-operation as well as to encourage protection of victims in judicial proceedings. Furthermore, the DAPHNE initiative was inserted to the overall policy to combat violence against children, young people and women, who followed a four-year DAPHNE programme.

Since May 1999, E.U. actions to combat Trafficking in Human Beings are explicitly mentioned under Title VI in the Amsterdam Treaty. The conclusions from the European Council in Tampere, Finland of October 1999 also give clear priority to the fight against Human Trafficking. The Council in July 2002 adopted the Commission's proposal for a Framework Decision to combat Trafficking in Human Beings. This legal instrument contains a common definition of trafficking to be implemented in all member states of the EU as well as in candidate countries. Also note the Commission proposal for temporary residence permits for trafficking victims mentioned above. On prevention, the Commission launched the European Forum on Prevention of Organised Crime in May 2001. EU ministers of Justice and the Interior and their counterparts in candidate countries in September 2001 agreed on 12 measures to combat trafficking.

In terms of EU financial and technical support, a number of specific and relevant programmes can be accessed towards anti-trafficking activities, such as STOP II, DAPHNE, PHARE, CARDS and TACIS. Those funding lines reaching expiry should be replenished and continued. So far the main focus on funding has been, though not exclusively, in support of information exchange and training. More funds should be made available for specifically operational programmes. Additionally, government officials and NGOs in S/E Europe should be trained on how to access EU funds, usually a complicated and therefore discouraging process.

As at the national level, the convening of a multi-disciplinary working group under the supervision of a Central Coordinator/Rapporteur is recommended to collaborate and consolidate the work of National Coordinators. The existing European Forum on Prevention of Organised Crime is a useful medium for inter-institutional dialogue and enhanced cooperation. Creation of complicated and overlapping institutions should be avoided, in favor of strengthening current structures.


The coalition of committed governments, international bodies and NGOs is called upon to take concrete measures and to intensify co-operation in the fields of prevention, victim protection and assistance, and police and judicial cooperation, in particular with a view to achieving a swift and sustainable reduction of trafficking in human beings.

Focus is needed on mechanisms for cooperation and coordination (exchange of information, strengthening European networking, database of missing persons, mobilization of EU instruments), prevention of trafficking (root causes, research, training, awareness raising, administrative controls), victim protection and assistance (immediate assistance, victim/witness protection, victim re-integration), and police and judicial cooperation (legislative measures, specialisation and exchange measures, investigative methods, anti-corruption initiatives).

* text from the Brussels Declaration on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, September 2002.


Focus of governments and EU has so far been on penal legislation, law enforcement and judicial cooperation rather than prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings and protection of victims. What assistance is provided is ad-hoc and uncoordinated and often provided by International Organisations (IO's) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) rather than the state. There are no referral mechanisms for identification and assistance of victims and no standard guidelines for the behavior of relevant law enforcement agencies, IO's and NGOs. According to the Stability Pact Trafficking Task Force (SPTTF), some 50% of victims fall back into the trafficking cycle due to gaps in service and support in both countries of destination and origin.


In the discussions on the economic push and pull factors of Trafficking in Human Beings we noted broad agreement on the root causes of the phenomenon, namely unemployment as well as lack of confidence and perspective in the countries of origin. This situation can be improved by creating conditions conducive to economic growth and foreign direct investment through efforts in the areas of good governance, rule of law and proper economic legislation.

These same efforts in the areas of rule of law and good governance are obviously of immediate importance also for addressing trafficking issues in a more direct way, including through awareness raising and coordination of efforts in law enforcement.

* Statement of the European Commission, Permanent Council No 437, 27 February 2003
 

B. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Especially, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is very active on anti-trafficking activities, both on prevention, and victim protection and assistance. During the 2nd Preparatory Seminar on the National and International Economic Impact of THB, which took place in Ioannina/Greece in February 2003, in cooperation with the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the need for urgent action was pointed out. OSCE focuses on efforts and programmes to reduce economic and social inequalities and disadvantages, in particular the problem of unemployment, to tackle poverty and marginalisation, to address all forms of gender discrimination and to combat violence against women.

Furthermore, it is essential the reduction of the demand and “consumption” of sexually exploited and forced to work victims, reducing at the same time the public “invisibility of exploitation” and introducing a zero tolerance campaign. In addition, child trafficking is laying on the epicenter of the interest of the OSCE, which, also, encourages the cooperation between relevant governmental and non-governmental organizations and points out that victims of trafficking should have access to full range of support measures, such as no prosecution, shelter accommodation, physical, sexual and psychological health care, and legal and social counseling. OSCE, also, proposes ways of investigation and prosecution and encourages harmonization of national legislations, training of police investigators, prosecutors and international personnel.


The importance of financial crime investigations and confiscating traffickers’ assets in order to break the cycle of trafficking was highlighted. OSCE can promote legislation and lwa enforcement in the area, and capacity building for police and tax inspection

OSCE recognizes the importance of NGOs, in the prevention of trafficking and reintegration of its victims, and will continue to support them.

Clear anti-trafficking policies, and preventing re-victimisation should be developed for victims of trafficking who return to their countries of origin. Proper reintegration and economic empowered of the returnees is essential to breaking the vicious cycle of human trafficking.

* Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, Report on the 2nd Preparatory Seminar for the Economic Forum, in Ioannina/Greece, 17-18 February 2003. For the conclusions and more information about the above-mentioned seminar, see www.osce.org/eea


C. The Stability Pact for South/Eastern Europe

The Stability Pact Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings is the main focal point for trafficking initiatives in the region. It was launched in September 2000 under Working Table III on Security Issues, sub-table on Justice and Home Affairs. Target countries are the countries of S/E Europe, plus Moldova, and members of the Stability Pact include governments of donor and facilitator countries, International Organisations, International Financial Institutions, regional initiatives and international NGO's. The Task Force advocates for nomination of focal points (National Co-ordinators) in each country to liaise between actors in all sectors, and for development by the countries of the region National Plans of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

To date regionally, the Stability Pact has shown itself to be the most effective mechanism coordinating anti-trafficking activities in S/E Europe and providing a structured approach to addressing this problem. The Stability Pact Multi-year Anti-Trafficking Action Plan for South Eastern Europe provides the framework for a comprehensive approach to trafficking, involving all main areas of concern including awareness raising, training, capacity building, law enforcement cooperation, victim protection, return and reintegration, legislative reform and prevention of human trafficking. Both Stability Pact donor countries and the countries of S/E Europe should strengthen their cooperation and their active participation through regular coordination and consultation with the Task Force on national and regional anti-trafficking endeavors.

The main areas of concern of the Task Force are: a. Awareness Raising, b. Training and exchange programs, c. Law enforcement co-operation, d. Victim protection programs, e. Return and reintegration assistance, f. Relevant legislative reform, and g. Prevention.

For 2003, the Task Force will focus on development and implementation of adequate legislation throughout the region, rapid development of a comprehensive referral mechanism in each country, victim protection by providing shelters, a awareness raising campaign addressing specifically the demand side, setting up a special section on child trafficking within each national working group, witness protection and ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Organised Crime.

The Task Force encourages the strengthening of regional cooperation, including strengthening cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination, and the enhancing of a structured and systematic cooperation and coordination between law enforcement authorities and victim protection facilities.


D. The South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP)

Trafficking in Human Beings was addressed at the June 2002 Belgrade Ministerial SEECP Meeting, with commitments being made by the ministers to reinforce efforts. In addition, THB will be in the agenda of the SEECP Belgrade Summit of the Head of States, in April 2003. Although, in March 2003 a Ministerial Meeting on Visa Liberalisation and Human Trafficking was organised in Belgrade, so far no concrete anti-trafficking activities have emanated from the work of SEECP.

In order the SEECP countries to strengthen their cooperation and to increase the capacities in the fight against illegal trafficking, the following immediate actions were identified, to:

• refer to the bilateral agreements among the SEECP countries for the readmission of persons having illegally entered and/or illegally residing in the countries of the region.
• harmonise their national legislation in compliance of the EU standards concerning organised crime and the protection and support of the victims of trafficking in human beings in particular.
• strengthen the border control for a better and more efficient prevention and detention of illegal crossing.
• assist each-other, in compliance with the international norms as appropriate
• further enhance the mechanisms of information exchange
• cooperate extensively and effectively with the Liaison Officers of the EU member states.
• participate in regional training activities for law enforcement officials, criminal police, financial police, border etc., and to built upon the initiative of the Stability Pact in the area of police training, namely the Police Forum
• utilize the recently-established S/E European Police Chiefs Association.   


The Ministers have reiterated their Governments’ commitment to a comprehensive and decisive combat against organised crime, money laundering, illicit drug trafficking, illegal migrations, arms and human trafficking and corruption. To this end the Ministers have fully supported the Stability Pact Organised Crime Initiative (SPOC) and the Stability Pact Anti-Corruption Initiative (SPAI). They have reaffirmed their support to the UN Convention on combating transnational organised crime and its supplementary Protocols. Intensified regional; cooperation in the field of law enforcement, judiciary, and public order, as well as within the SEECP, to reach effective border control, is necessary to attain these goals.  

* Text from the Joint Statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the SEECP, Belgrade, 19 June 2002

As the main regional multilateral initiative, coming from the region itself, it is recommended that SEECP coordinates its initiatives on trafficking with the relevant Stability Pact Task Force, to strengthen regional cooperation, and to avoid duplication and overlaps. In addition, as regional forum, SEECP will gain experience and eventually form regional and sectoral mechanisms.

Numerous Regional Initiatives and International Organisations have also encouraged cooperation among governmental and non-governmental networks to combat Trafficking in Human Beings. SECI, Adriatic and Ionian Initiative, OSCE and OSCE/ODIHR, Council of Europe, UNICEF, UNHCHR, UNDCCP, IOM, ILO, Interpol, Europol, Eurojust are some of them. The plethora of initiatives underlines the strong interest of the international community, but simultaneously indicates the danger of overlapping.

The SECI Bucharest Center on Organised Crime and the Vlora Center on anti-trafficking are noticeable indicators of the strong international and regional interest for combating trafficking in human beings, but further increasing of their effectiveness is needed. To that end, inclusion of all Balkan countries, integration of their operations into European Union’s structures, formal exchanges of operational information, completion of formal training to Europol standards, publication of an independent study, and implementation of a credible strategic plan, are only some of the existing relevant proposals. 

 

3. Recommendations

Regarding Trafficking in Human Beings and in line with the principles of the EU and proposals contained in the Brussels Declaration, specific concern actions have to be taken both on national and regional level in S/E Europe. It is expected that S/E European countries are eager to act both domestically and regionally, and all international actors involved to coordinate their actions to deal more effectively with trafficking issues.

• Victim Assistance and necessary mechanisms

Range of immediate assistance needed to support victims: safe and secure shelter, confidential medical, social and psychological care and legal assistance. Longer-term assistance should include education, job training and repatriation to the home countries of the victims.

Identification and Assistance Procedures: These actions are recommended at both national and regional level: 
• Train police to distinguish trafficking victims from irregular migrants.
• Establish telephone hotlines providing information and referral assistance to potential victims.
• Establish modus operandi for referral of victims by law enforcement to assistance providers.
• Encourage better relations between involved parties such as NGOs, law enforcement, aliens services, and social services.
• Specialized and multi-disciplinary training workshops and working groups are useful in this regard.

Regionally, IOs and NGOs have frequently been the sole providers of assistance to trafficking victims. Funding for counter-trafficking activities is essential and should be increased.

Temporary residence: The European Commission has submitted a proposal for a Directive to introduce a special residence permit to allow victims to receive assistance, take legal action and especially to provide state evidence, subject to controls to deter fraudulent claims. Once adopted, the proposal will become part of the Acquis. Regional Initiatives, such as the Stability Pact and NGO-Networks have made specific proposals regarding temporary residence. In addition, Western European countries, members of Schengen, have already adopted laws regarding temporary residence with relative success. Furthermore, a step-by-step legal process towards “De-penalization of Trafficking Victims” has to be examined in the future.

Reintegration and repatriation assistance: An organization with a regional base, such as IOM, is best equipped to provide region-wide repatriation service. Repatriation without reintegration is not sustainable. Source countries must be helped through technical and financial assistance to combat and prevent trafficking and to responsibly provide reintegration assistance to returning victims. All S/E Euroepan countries have prepared National Plans of Action – assistance for anti-trafficking should be based on these NPAs and channeled to priority areas, preferably in coordination with the Stability Pact.

• Training programmes

Training for judicial, law enforcement, medical, educational, diplomatic, immigration officials, IO's and NGO's is essential, both nationally and regionally. Training modules have been developed and should be applied. The EU has funded such activities, e.g. through the STOPII and DAPHNE programmes. Europol also hosts expert meetings and provides training for law enforcement officers. It is recommended that EU funds should be applied more to practical training workshops rather than additional conferences, of which there have been many. Regional experts should be invited to participate in order to promote exchange of know-how. This also helps creation of networks and regional cooperation. Trafficking awareness should be included in training of international military and police forces, diplomatic staff and civilian contractors. It is recommend that a zero-tolerance policy be introduced in codes of conduct.

• Research and Exchange of information

Established lines of communication and agreed procedures are required, regionally through sharing of intelligence between police forces, and at expert, diplomatic and consular levels. Recognizing that only a regional solution can address the problem of Trafficking in Human Beings, information will not be effective unless it is systemized and shared. Countries should undertake bilateral cooperation agreements for information exchange. This is especially recommended with source countries of trafficked children, e.g. Albania and Romania.

There is no coordinating body responsible for facilitating the exchange of data on trafficking in the EU or S/E Europe. The Stability Pact, SECI, Europol and Interpol are all attempting to fill this gap and should be supported with funding and input. Other resources include the Regional Clearing House on  Victims of Trafficking being set up in Belgrade by IOM/ICMC, which will gather data regarding victims, national referral mechanisms and anti-trafficking actions in the region and also, UNICEF's Inventory of the Trafficking Situation in S/E Europe.

Close cooperation with the European Commission is needed, promoting and facilitating functional ties between member states and major source/transit countries to combat and prevent trafficking. This is especially crucial in view of the Schengen visa regime and the disturbing trafficking situation in certain candidate countries. The investigation and monitoring of front companies used by trafficking networks is especially recommended.

NGOs should be encouraged to create regional networks of collaboration. To facilitate proper dissemination of information and creation of partnerships, the preparation of a regional and European NGO directory would be useful.

Furthermore, funding to NGOs and International Organisations active regionally in anti-trafficking, in particular supporting projects of a cross-border or regional nature is urgent. Financing of anti-trafficking projects should be in line with the countries' National Action Plans and coordinated with the Stability Pact to ensure priority projects are being targeted.

• Public awareness

Campaigns should be implemented in source, transit and destination countries. They should target the whole chain of players from potential victims to users, the general public, policy makers, law enforcement officers, diplomatic and consular personnel and other relevant public officials, such as medical, social services, and employment officials.

Briefing materials such as leaflets and brochures in different languages should be prepared outlining migration and employment policies and realities in destination countries and be clearly displayed at consular offices abroad. They should include warnings against the risk of trafficking.

Furthermore, the private sector could be activated and be used as a promoter and possible donor of projects regarding public awareness against trafficking. Additionally, informed reporting by the media should be encouraged.

• Development Strategy and Assistance

Since organised crime is the most important non-military threat for the stability in the region, there is an urgent need for a long-term “preventive development strategy” for S/E Europe, through international development funds and technical assistance, in order to modernize civil structures and to strengthen the rule of law in S/E Europe as a priority. To that end, close cooperation with International Organisations and International Financial Institutions is essential. Programmes supported should include a gender focus and should support economic and educational empowerment of women in their societies, especially dealing with unemployment.

The concept of “preventive development” has been already put forward, as one of the main tools against conflict, organised crime and trafficking within the framework of South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP).
 


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