How do EU Member States, Norway and Georgia tackle human trafficking of people coming from the non-EU countries? The latest study from the European Migration Network maps the measures and experiences at the European and national level relevant to the detection, identification and protection of presumed victims.
The study Third-country national victims of trafficking in human beings: detection, identification and protection aims to explore the national measures and experiences around detection, identification and protection of third-country national victims of trafficking in human beings between 2015 and 2020. It covers migrants who are asylum applicants, in an irregular situation and in possession of a valid authorisation to stay in a country where they are. The study also maps the cooperation between countries at the European and international level. It identifies the main challenges and good practices in respect of the impact of COVID-19.
• Between 2015 and 2020 more than 10 500 third-country national victims of trafficking in human beings were registered in the EU Member States, Norway and Georgia. Minors accounted for 8.5%, and sexual and labour exploitation represented approximately 75% of the cases. Institutional and legislative initiatives have been adopted with the aim to strengthen coordination among relevant actors and to protect victims, as well as enhance investigations and increase sanctions against perpetrators.
• Given its clandestine nature trafficking in human beings remains underreported. Presumed victims also fear retaliation against their close ones. The detection and identification of victims, but it is critical for their safety. In practice a clear distinction between the two phases does not always exist. Early detection and identification are crucial to ensure the prompt organisation of assistance and protection.
• The formal identification of a victim can trigger different forms of support, although in some cases these are already provided at detection stage, too. Following a reflection period, an authorisation to reside in the country where they were identified can be made. In most cases residence rights that are not conditional on victims’ participation in criminal proceedings or on humanitarian or international protection grounds are granted.
• The grounds for and modalities of assistance and protection of (presumed) victims are provided for in different EU legal instruments. Support measures cover the right to information, translation and interpretation, counselling, legal representation and legal aid, access to appropriate accommodation and material support, as well as to medical treatment and psychological assistance, and the right to compensation.
• Cooperation at national and international level is a crucial element and can take different forms, e.g. networks and mechanisms to exchange information and good practices, joint operations that reinforce collaboration between competent authorities, ad-hoc initiatives.
• The COVID-19 pandemic has added significant challenges to the detection, identification and protection of victims of trafficking in human beings. The economic impact of the pandemic has increased the vulnerability of some people who were already at risk. The pandemic has changed how victims are recruited, trafficked and exploited, with most countries sharing concern about the growing use of online means.