Welcome to the interviews section.
Here you will find interviews to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU anti-trafficking Coordinator Myria Vassiliadou, and anti-trafficking experts.
The interviews give an inside perspective on how the EU Instituitions work together to stop human trafficking.
In article published on the Autumn 2012 issue of “Links, the magazine of the Council of British Chambers of Commerce”, Myria Vassiliadou, the EU Anti-trafficking Coordinator announces that the Commission will establish a European Business Coalition for addressing trafficking in human beings by 2014.
This coalition responds to the requests of many stakeholders, who emphasised the need to create partnerships with all actors, including the private sector, and to raise awareness and promoting practices reducing demand.
In particular, the Commission intends to work together with the Coalition to develop models and guideline on reducing the demand for services provided by victims of trafficking in human beings, in particular in high-risk areas, including the sex industry, agriculture, construction and tourism.
Cecilia Malmström is the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs and in charge of designing a European response to the crimes of trafficking in human beings. She firmly underlines the need for action: "This is modern slavery. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are being lured, forced, or threatened into a life of misery within the EU. It is our duty to do our utmost to help the victims, and to fight these criminals who are making profit on other people's misery."
15 December 2010, Brussels
Current EU initiatives to combat human trafficking
When Cecilia Malmström took office in the beginning of 2010, one of the first things that she did was to propose a Directive that would sharpen the EU's tools against trafficking in human beings from three angles: prevention, protection of the victims, and prosecution of the criminals. The European Parliament just voted in favour of the proposal, with a strong majority.
- This shows the broad political agreement in Europe that we need to do more to fight trafficking in human beings. Our recent appointment of Myria Vassiliadou as the European Anti-Trafficking Coordinator will even further strengthen our ambitions in tackling this horrible crime.
- Going after the money is one way of fighting the criminals who make a profit on other people's suffering. Because unfortunately trafficking in human beings is very lucrative. It is in fact the second most profitable "business" for organised crime networks in Europe today. A month ago, I presented an action-oriented Internal Security Strategy for the EU, where we propose action on confiscating the assets of criminal networks. . By removing the financial incentive, I hope that we can hurt their criminal activity and make this awful crime less attractive.
- I will also continue to explore how to develop our work further. I think we can do much more on identifying victims at an early stage, on working more closely with third countries, on strengthening our work against labour exploitation as well as taking measures to reduce the demand for human trafficking.
Main partners for the Commission in combating this crime
The main partners of the Commission within the EU are the Member States, who through the work of police and judicial authorities are responsible for the operational work on their territories. The Commission also cooperates closely with the United Nations and other international organisations.
- If we are to succeed in targeting, and harming, the trafficking business, cooperation is absolutely crucial. I want us to increase our work with non-governmental organisations and civil society.
- We must also deepen our cooperation with countries outside the Union in order to tackle the root of the problem, which often lies in poverty and under-development.
Obstacles within the EU
Trafficking in human beings is very much a cross-border crime. This makes it important to work on an EU level, but there are nonetheless many practical obstacles to overcome when establishing good cooperation between law enforcement authorities in different countries.
- We are working on strengthening cross-border judicial and law enforcement coordination, but much remains to be done. I hope that we will soon get final adoption of the Directive that the Parliament endorsed, so that the trafficking legislation will be harmonised across Member States.
- Another obstacle is the lack of comparable statistics. It lies in the nature of this crime that much is going on in the dark. This is something we work on so that we can get a better picture of the scope of this criminal activity.
Finally, when your mandate is over in 2014, what do you hope to have achieved in the fight against trafficking?
- Fighting this type of modern slavery is one of my key priorities during my mandate as Commissioner for Home Affairs. I will do all that I can to raise awareness and to increase action on all levels to fight this lucrative criminal business.
- I carry no illusion of a crushing victory in the fight against trafficking in human beings, and no hope of totally eradicating this horrendous crime. But I will do all in my power to make life hard for the criminals. Every life saved from abuse is a victory.
In an interview published on the new issue of Austrian Der Standard, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Myria Vassiliadou, stresses that the EU is planning to take decisive action for addressing trafficking in human beings by means of a new Directive that is to be transposed by Member States by April 2013 and a Strategy for 2012-2016. Focus is placed on victims, assistance, support and protection.
Read the original: Der Standard.at
Patsy Sorensen is founder and Director of the Antwerp-based NGO Payoke, one of three recognised organisations in Belgium with the mission of assisting and sheltering victims of human trafficking. Payoke was founded in 1987 and was one of the first NGOs in Europe to address this important issue. She is a pioneer in the fight against trafficking in human beings, with over 20 years experience in the field. She is also a member of the EU Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings.
2 September 2010, Brussels
Exploitation for all purposes
Largely due to the media, human trafficking has been portrayed as a crime where criminals prey on young women and girls, kidnap them, and force them to work in the commercial sex industry. But also men, children and even whole families, are trafficked for other purposes. Over the past couple of years, Payoke has assisted a large number of victims of economic exploitation. They come from different situations of exploitation. Victims can be found in horse stables, the construction industry, restaurants, and in domestic work. A large number of our victims are men.
- Each year we see different waves of victims coming into Payoke. In 2009, we had 63 new clients, of whom 18 were male. In this group, the largest number of victims of sexual exploitation came from Bulgaria, Thailand, and Nigeria. The victims of economic exploitation mainly came from Morocco, China, Senegal and Cameroon. Today there are also victims from Belgium.
Victims’ rights and identification
All victims of human trafficking are offered a 45-days “reflection period” during which they can decide if they want to participate in criminal proceedings against the traffickers. Under Belgian law, all victims of human trafficking - and presumable victims – are given a brief overview of the special procedure for victim protection. This includes information about the three specialised centres and its functions.
- The majority of our clients come to us through the police. We have developed a close relationship with the police over the years and work with them to provide victims assistance as quickly as possible. When presumed victims are referred to us by the police we immediately admit them to the shelter. Victims who come to us through the police have been identified and we normally don’t need to have a screening interview. In these cases, the victims are entitled to an immediate 3-months residence permit.
- We also get referrals from social services, asylum centres, or just concerned citizens. In some cases, victims themselves approach us although this is rare. People normally don’t see themselves as victims or are often afraid of coming forward.
Cooperation with all stakeholders
Payoke’s work requires collaboration with all sectors of society, including the EU institutions, government offices, the Federal Police, the Immigration Service and many specialised civil society organisations.
- It is important to say though, while Payoke is often sought out by international partners for its expertise in counter-trafficking approaches, our mission has never wavered: to provide support to victims, through cooperation and coordination with partners, at the local level.
Language barriers and cultural attitudes can be real challenges when working with people from different parts of the world. Some victims may also have negative experiences from the police in their home country.
- Victim ordeals are difficult enough – without trying to express how they feel in another language and within another culture. For this reason, many victims prefer to talk to someone from their own country.
We constantly need to train ourselves on different cultural behaviours in order to better assist the victims. We also have to look at each case individually. It is a continual learning process.
Having been in the anti-trafficking-field for over 20 years, Patsy Sorensen can also see some positive trends:
- Today, a lot of people are better informed about human trafficking and the risks of taking a job abroad. Nevertheless, the biggest change I have seen is that twenty years ago no one regarded this form of slavery as a crime. Today we have legislation – on national and international levels. Twenty years ago a victim ended up in jail as a criminal, today he or she ends up in a shelter. This is a positive trend where you can say that the human rights have been acknowledged.
Edit Bauer has been a Member of the European Parliament, Group of European People's Party, since 2004. She is currently the Rapporteur for the Women’s Rights Committee and has been actively involved in the work for a New Legislation to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings.
The European Council is about to adopt a new EU Directive on trafficking in human beings. What is the role of you and the European Parliament in this work?
Under Art. 83 of the Lisbon Treaty European Parliament have got a codecision power in cases of severe crossborder criminal activities. After orientation vote in two committees as a result of five rounds of Trilogue the Council, Commission and the EP we achieved a compromise, which was approved by the overwhelming majority of the plenary in the EP.
Tougher penalties for traffickers and better protection for victims are some of the key elements of the new Directive. What else does it include?
I would like to mention at least three new elements:
1. Definition – the adopted text extends the definition by begging, including the use of a trafficked dependent person for begging, as well as trafficking of persons for the purpose of forced marriages, or illegal adoption. There are cases of trafficking of pregnant women for the purpose of illegally adopting their children after confinement. However there are also cases of women "freely" selling their children abroad by declaring the illegally adopting man as the father of the child, then giving up their rights as mother.
2. Non-prosecution of victims: many victims commit unlawful activities since they are forced, coerced, because they were trafficked and had no other choice. They should not be prosecuted for it. We should avoid the secondary victimization of victims.
3. Provision on the European anti-trafficking coordinator. Hopefully, as a result of the coordinator’s activities the European anti-trafficking policy could be more consequent, coordinated and coherent.
The Directive will replace the Council Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings from 2002. What are the main differences, as you see it, between these two instruments?
The directive is a stronger legal tool as the Framework Decision. The Directive establishes the minimum of maximum penalties, helping sanctioning offenders by similar penalties allover the EU and providing victims by stronger protection in every Member State.
Are you happy with the outcome of the Directive? Which are its strengths and weaknesses in your view?
The outcome is a compromise text. We faced to a minority blocking in the Council in three cases: in higher penalties, in extraterritorial jurisdiction and criminalisation of users of services provided by trafficked persons. Without any doubt this piece of legislation is a big step ahead in prosecution and victim‘s protection. I am really sorry; we did not succeed to broaden the jurisdiction to habitual residents. Knowing that among offenders are also third country nationals, habitual residents inside EU, it could be a loophole in legislation. In the future we should find also a way, how to break down the demand.
Which are the next steps, after the adoption?
The legislation is just a part of the fight against trafficking in human beings. We are expecting the strategy of combating trafficking, as a next step, strengthening the law enforcement, awareness raising and monitoring.
EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Myria Vassiliadou, on Cyprus Broadcasting Cooperation
To mark the 6th EU Anti-Trafficking Day, the Cyprus EU Presidency and the European Commission are organising a high level conference in Brussels on 18 October 2012.
The conference 'Working together towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings: The Way Forward' will focus on the recently adopted EU Strategy on Trafficking in Human Beings. It aims to serve as a forum for exchange of views on shaping future actions to strengthen cooperation, victim protection and assistance, prevention and prosecution in the field of trafficking in human beings.
Rosie Charalambous spoke to the EU's Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Myria Vassiliadou, about the issue of trafficking, and asked her what her priorities were.
Cecilia Malmström on addressing trafficking in human beings: Interview for Cyprus Broadcasting Cooperation
Slavery was, in theory, abolished many years ago, but in the modern age, every year, hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked into the EU or within the EU.
Vulnerable women and men, boys and girls are traded - mostly for sexual exploitation, but also for forced labour, the removal of organs, for domestic servitude, forced marriage, begging, stealing and illegal adoption.
Embarrassingly, Cyprus, the current holder of the rotating EU Presidency, is one of the only European member states to still feature on the the US State Department's "Watch List", whose report for 2012 stated: "The Government of Cyprus does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore, Cyprus is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year".
The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, says co-ordinated initiatives are needed to efficiently address this appalling phenomenon. Following the appointment of the EU Anti-trafficking Coordinator and the entry into force of the new EU Directive on trafficking in human beings, the Commission has adopted the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016), a set of concrete and practical measures that must be implemented in all member states.
The Commissioner spoke to Rosie Charalambous about the measures that she hopes will be incorporated across the European bloc to eradicate this shameful practice.
EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator interview on Deutschlandfunk
In an interview with Deutschlandfunk, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Myria Vassiliadou speaks about trafficking in human beings and the "EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016".
Language of the interview: German