C Explanatory memorandum by Ms Mattila,
rapporteur for opinion
1 A human rights-based and victim-centred approach
to action against human trafficking
1 The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination
shares the rapporteur’s approach on the issue of trafficking of
migrant workers: this is not only an organised criminal activity
and a violation of national legislation on immigration and labour.
It is primarily a violation of human rights of which trafficked
workers are the victims.
2 Anti-trafficking law and policies should therefore focus on
the right objective, namely protecting victims and prosecuting offenders,
while striving to prevent the phenomenon of trafficking altogether.
In a nutshell, the Assembly should reiterate its support for a human
rights-based and victim-centred approach to action against human
trafficking, as epitomised in the Council of Europe Convention on
Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197).
3 A human rights and victim-centred approach implies that victims
of trafficking should not be held responsible for breaches of immigration
or labour legislation. Only in this way, would the respect of human rights
prevail over other considerations and would victims feel free to
seek help and co-operate with law enforcement authorities.
4 A human rights and victim-centred approach also means that
States should take into account that while all victims of trafficking
have protection needs, they are not all in the same situation. Even
if, on average, the great majority of victims of trafficking are
women and girls coerced into prostitution, there are also male victims. Similarly,
there are forms of slavery and exploitation other than forced prostitution,
and trafficking can take place within one country instead of being
transnational. Assistance and protection measures should therefore be
geared towards meeting the specific needs of each group.
2 Trafficking for forced labour in Europe
5 Reading Ms Groth’s report, it is disheartening to
realise that despite all the efforts deployed in the last two decades,
trafficking in human beings not only persists but thrives. Europe
continues to be a continent of origin, transit and destination for
6 However, in the last few years, two new developments have
taken place: trafficking of European Union citizens towards other
European Union countries has increased and continues to be on the
rise; the forms of exploitation, to which victims are subjected
have diversified: in some States forced prostitution remains the main
and nearly only form of exploitation, whereas, in other States,
forms of exploitation such as domestic slavery, forced labour in
construction and agriculture or forced begging have become predominant.
These remarks apply only to cases which are reported. As is well
known, a large proportion of the phenomenon of trafficking never
comes to the surface.
3 Two distinct notions: trafficking and forced labour
3.1 Change of mindset
7 In my opinion, two steps are absolutely necessary
to tackle trafficking. The first is bringing about a change of mindset
primarily amongst law-enforcement authorities, for them to realise
that forced prostitution is not the only form of exploitation.
8 In this sense, Ms Groth’s report has the great merit of referring
to the broad notion of forced labour as set out in the International
Labour Organization (ILO) Convention (No. 29) concerning Forced
or Compulsory Labour, which includes exploitation for sexual purposes.
Relying on this definition, therefore, the main distinction is between
trafficking for forced labour and trafficking for other purposes
(such as trafficking in organs), even if in common language sexual
exploitation is often distinguished from forced labour.
9 A correct grasp of the phenomenon of trafficking in its complexity
would not only ensure better protection of its victims but also
that all forms of exploitation are identified as such and then investigated
3.2 Emphasis on prevention
10 Furthermore, it is necessary to channel more resources
towards prevention. It is not possible to counter trafficking without
tackling economic crime and the grey economy. Improving the transparency
of business activities and money circulation has given good results.
For instance, in 2012, Finland introduced a compulsory individual
tax number for each person working on building sites. This requires
that employers inform the authorities of the names of all contractors
and sub-contractors operating on the site, which helps to track
down possible activities of trafficking in human beings.
4 Special vulnerability of some groups
11 What is looming ahead for Europe? Unfortunately,
as described by Ms Groth, unless decisive measures are taken immediately,
trafficking is likely to rise, as a result of the economic crisis
and the increased vulnerability of some specific groups.
12 Poverty, of course, is the main risk factor. An irregular
immigration status is also an element which increases the risk of
falling prey to trafficking and exploitation. In addition, some
particular groups are in a position of special vulnerability.
4.1 Women and girls
13 Women and girls are the main victims of trafficking,
in Europe and the rest of the world. The great majority of them
are subjected to sexual exploitation, which, according to the estimates
mentioned by Ms Groth, accounts for 76% of forced labour in the
European Union and the developed economies (compared to 22% worldwide).
14 The vulnerability of women and girls to trafficking is directly
linked to gender inequality and gender-based discrimination which
prevail all over the world. Forced prostitution, in particular,
is a form of exploitation and violence which affects women disproportionally.
As such, it is covered by the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing
and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (CETS
No. 210, “Istanbul Convention”). Hence the synergy between this
instrument and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human
Beings in providing assistance and protection to victims.
15 Despite lofty principles, the reality is dire also for those
victims of trafficking who co-operate with the justice system. Not
many of them are granted permission to remain in a European host
country after the conclusion of judicial proceedings against traffickers.
I would like to point out the absence, in the vast majority of Council
of Europe member States, of reintegration programmes to help victims
returning to their countries of origin reintegrate in society and
find resources to provide for their own subsistence. This is a particularly worrying
problem for victims of forced prostitution, given that the social
stigma attached to this form of exploitation often leads to their
social exclusion, further increasing their vulnerability to trafficking.
16 A lively debate has arisen in recent years on the impact on
trafficking of legislation criminalising the purchase of sexual
services. A report on this matter is currently being prepared by
the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. I look forward
to its findings, which will further contribute to our reflection
on how to tackle the scourge of trafficking.
In some cases, sexual orientation and gender identity
can increase the risk of trafficking. This can be the result of
rejection from families and social marginalisationNote
or in certain cases be linked to
the demand of sexual slavery in countries of destination (cases
are reported of Kenyan gay men trafficked to the Arab Gulf region
for this purpose).Note
Trafficking is also mentioned by
the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application
of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation
and Gender Identity,
“Everyone is entitled to protection from trafficking,
sale and all forms of exploitation, including but not limited to
sexual exploitation, on the grounds of actual or perceived sexual
orientation or gender identity. Measures designed to prevent trafficking
shall address the factors that increase vulnerability, including
various forms of inequality and discrimination on the grounds of
actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, or the
expression of these or other identities. Such measures must not
be inconsistent with the human rights of persons at risk of being
4.3 People with disabilities
18 Marginalisation and discrimination based on different
grounds, such as ethnicity, race, religion and disability are among
the factors increasing the risk of human trafficking, and disability
is particularly relevant. It is both a cause of discrimination in
the country of origin of the potential victim of trafficking and
a factor determining the purpose of trafficking.
Disabled people are typically trafficked to be forced into
begging. This applies in particular to child trafficking: UNICEF
has recently reported that 13% of the victims of trafficking in
south-eastern Europe have been trafficked for purposes of forced
its 2010 shadow submission to the Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the European
Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) also noted that disability was a factor
aggravating the vulnerability to trafficking for Roma women and children.Note
5 Protecting men who are victims of trafficking
The International Organization for Migration (IOM)
confirms that focusing on women as victims of trafficking for sexual
exploitation has sometimes led European States to neglect male victims
and other forms of exploitation.Note
conclusion was reiterated at a recent expert seminar held in Finland,
where the case was mentioned of trafficked men having been placed
in rehabilitation centres for recovering alcoholics as a protection
measure. This type of structure was clearly unfit to host victims
of human trafficking. Although men represent a less significant
share of trafficked people, proper facilities should be put in place
to help also male victims and their specific needs should be considered
when creating support systems.
6 Internal trafficking
21 The IOM also underlines that, in some cases, emphasis
on international trafficking has led to neglect of internal trafficking,
to the point that the latter phenomenon goes unnoticed and that
victims are not assisted.
22 Human trafficking can take place within different regions
of the same country. It can also affect citizens and naturalised
immigrants, as happened in a judicial case in Finland where a Finn
was convicted for trafficking and the two victims were also Finnish
23 The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) devotes
special attention to the issue of internal child trafficking and
co-operates with schools throughout the country in order to prevent
it and help victims. In the cases reported so far, young people
(normally in their early teens) are drawn into a relationship with
an older boyfriend, who then encourages them to go missing from
home and moves them to other cities in the United Kingdom for the
purpose of sexual abuse by individuals or groups. This is a particularly
disturbing phenomenon to which we should be alert.
7 The role of parliaments in the fight against human
The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and
Men, from which the current Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination
originates, supported the Council of Europe Convention on Action
against Trafficking in Human Beings by preparing a report which
led to the adoption of Resolution
on action against trafficking in human beings: promoting
the Council of Europe convention. This report underlined the high
potential of the convention and called on Council of Europe member States
to provide its monitoring mechanism (the Group of Experts on Action
against Trafficking in Human Beings – GRETA) with sufficient financial
and human resources.
25 In December 2010, the Committee on Equal Opportunities for
Women and Men held a conference in Paris under the title “Parliaments
united against trafficking”. Parliamentarians and experts from intergovernmental
and non-governmental organisations took stock of the situation of
human trafficking and discussed possible ways to tackle it.
26 The final declaration adopted at the Conference contains a
number of recommendations, based on best practices. Amongst them
was the recommendation that Council of Europe member States appoint
a national co-ordinator on human trafficking. In my opinion, an
independent authority can play an important role by monitoring the
government’s activities and keeping the issue of trafficking high
in the political agenda.
27 As foreseen under European Union legislation, a national rapporteur
has been appointed in a number of European Union member States with
positive results. In Finland, the task has been given to the Ombudsman for
Minorities, who monitors phenomena relating to human trafficking,
oversees action against human trafficking and issues proposals,
recommendations, statements and advice relevant to action against trafficking.
Authorities, third-sector actors and victims of trafficking can
contact the Ombudsman, who provides legal advice and can even assist
victims of trafficking and related crimes in securing their rights.
28 The Paris declaration also highlights the role of parliaments
in combating human trafficking. Parliamentarians should ask to be
systematically involved in monitoring legislation and policies in
this area. They can ask questions of their respective governments,
in particular as regards the implementation of the Council of Europe
Convention on Trafficking and its co-ordination with other legal
instruments, including European Union law. National parliamentarians
should also support the work of GRETA. In particular, they should
pay attention to monitoring the procedure for the appointment of
GRETA members, who must be independent to fully exercise their role
and criticise governments when necessary.
8 Explanation of the amendments
Combating trafficking requires the co-operation of a large
variety of public authorities and private actors. Therefore it is
worth completing the list of public authorities, mention the NGOs
explicitly and add a reference to the third sector, or social economy,
which can contribute to countering the “grey economy”.
This is one of the recommendations included in the Paris declaration
of 2010, which I can only support. Positive examples in several
European countries including Finland confirm that an independent
figure can effectively stimulate the government by monitoring the
implementation of the relevant regulations and periodically reporting
to the government and parliament.
This amendment aims to foster another recommendation of the
Paris declaration: parliaments should play a more important role
in the preparation, implementation and monitoring of comprehensive
national plans against human trafficking.
GRETA plays a vital role in monitoring the implementation
of the Council of Europe convention and should be granted sufficient
funds and human resources. For GRETA’s action to be relevant and
effective the members of this body must be competent in the relevant
field and independent from any government.