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    Since 1998, Italy has been at the forefront of the fight against trafficking in human beings and the protection of victims, both children and adults. The Italian model, which is still considered as a best practice in this field, was built on the principle that an effective anti-trafficking strategy should be based on a victim rights-centered approach. The main legal provisions regulating the national response to trafficking in persons were drafted in accordance with this principle and are:

      1. Article 18 of the National Law on Migration (Legislative Decree No 286 of 1998);
      2. Article 13 of the National Law against Trafficking in Human Beings (Law No 228 of 2003).

    A complex structure for the assistance to trafficked persons was then developed on the basis of the abovementioned laws and is now in place at the national level, working through three main tools:

      • Programmes for temporary assistance (implemented in compliance with art. 13 of Law No 228/2003);
      • Programmes for long-term assistance and social inclusion (implemented in compliance with art. 18 of Legislative Decree No 286/1998);
      • National Anti-Trafficking Toll-Free Helpline (a “system action” laid down in art. 2 of Ministerial Decree of 23 November 1999 regulating the implementation of art. 18 of Legislative Decree No 286/1998).


    The Department for Equal Opportunities is the national authority in charge of coordinating and promoting action for the protection of trafficked persons. The Department is currently considered as Italy’s Equivalent Mechanism on Trafficking in Human Beings and this indicates the national approach to the issue adopted by the Italian Government, which considers the protection of human rights and a gender-based approach as priorities for the national intervention system.

    The main objective of the assistance action taken by the Italian Government is to allow trafficked or exploited persons to escape from the conditioning of criminal organizations or individual exploiters they are subjected to and give them the opportunity to start a new life in Italy or in their country of origin. To this end, victims of trafficking or exploitation can benefit from assisted voluntary return to their home country or a special residence permit for social protection, envisaged by article 18 of the National Law on Migration (Legislative Decree No 286 of 1998). The granting of this residence permit does not depend on reporting traffickers/exploiters to law enforcement agencies by the victim. The only necessary condition for the permit to be issued is to meet the requirements provided for by the law, participate in the “Article 18” assistance programme and complete it.

    Every year the Department for Equal Opportunities launches a call for proposals to finance the assistance programmes. Both local authorities and certified NGOs can apply for funding. All programmes need to be co-funded by Regions or local authorities, with a view to ensuring the local government’s ownership of actions to be implemented in a specific region.

    Data and results

    Data and statistics can be provided by the DEO (Department for Equal Opportunities) with regard to the victims or presumed victims of trafficking who are beneficiaries of the first assistance and social protection projects promoted and co-funded by the DEO. These people, both adults and children, can be victims of both forced labour and forced prostitution, or other forms of exploitation (forced begging, illegal activities, etc.).

    From 2000 to 2012, 665 projects were co-funded within the framework of art. 18 of Legislative Decree No 286/1998 and, from 2006 to 2012, 166 projects were co-funded under art. 13 of Law No 228/2003. From 2000 to 2012, 21,347 people (among whom 1,196 children) were assisted within the framework of the “art.18 programmes” and, from 2006 to 2012, 3,704 people (among whom 203 children) received assistance under the “art. 13 programmes” (2012 data is still being elaborated. Therefore, the abovementioned figures might not be final).

    As for data collection, over the last two years the Department for Equal Opportunities has worked to the set up a national electronic database on trafficking in human beings focusing on victims assisted within the framework of the projects, which was launched in January 2011. It now enables the Department to monitor on a real-time basis the number of victims assisted at the national level, as well as the services provided, and to analyse the new trends of trafficking in persons. As far as the trafficked persons’ nationality is concerned, although the percentage of Nigerians (women and young girls) remains stable (approximately 40% of the total number of victims), a decrease is registered for Eastern Europe nationals (Romania, Albania, Moldova, Bulgaria). In general, the percentage of victims coming from Africa (Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia) is increasing, amounting to approximately 60% of the total number. Victims coming from Asia (China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India) represent approximately 10%. The other national groups are numerically quite limited. Sexual exploitation is still the most common form of trafficking in human beings (about 70%). However, persons trafficked for other purposes of exploitation (forced labour, begging, criminal activities) are increasingly being assisted through the social protection programmes in Italy. While in the past years women were mainly exploited in forced prostitution, in 2011 12% of them on average were victims of other forms of exploitation (forced labour, begging, criminal activities). As for the gender of trafficked persons, the percentage of trafficked men has constantly increased since 2007 reaching approximately 27%. Men, particularly from the Maghreb countries, China, India, Pakistan and Eastern Europe, are trafficked for forced labour not only in the agricultural sector in southern Italy, but also in the textile industry, construction and other sectors of the labour market.

    A summary of this text is available in the official language of the country.




    All forms of trafficking in human beings are prohibited in Italy. The specific offence of trafficking in persons was introduced in the Italian Criminal Code (article 601) in 2003 by Law No 228/2003.

    However, both before and after 2003, some cases of trafficking in persons have been prosecuted under the offences of 'slavery' (article 600 of the Italian Criminal Code) and 'trade of slaves' (article 602), which have been amended by Law No 228/2003.

    As far as children are concerned, the Italian Criminal Code also provides for prosecution for trafficking in children under other offences such as 'child prostitution' (article 600-bis), 'child pornography' (article 600-ter) and ‘possession of pornographic material’ (article 600-quater).

    Pursuant to the Italian Criminal Code, anyone who commits trafficking in human beings shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of 8 to 20 years. However, penalty is harsher if the offence is perpetrated against minors. Prostitution per se is not criminalised in Italy, but the act of procuring is a crime under article 3 of Law No 75/1958.

    Article 18 of the 1998 Immigration Law establishes that six-month temporary humanitarian residence permits may be issued to foreigners needing protection and assistance. The residence permit is renewable for one year and may be converted into a residence permit for education or work. (For further information see under 3.2 -  Assistance and support provided to victims.)

    Italy complies with Council Directive 2004/81/EC (on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration) in terms of assistance to victims (through art. 18 of Immigration Law and art. 13 of Law No 228/2003).

    The Italian law does not provide for a reflection period for victims of trafficking. But it is worth mentioning that obtaining a temporary residence permit in Italy is not conditional upon the victim’s willingness to cooperate with law enforcement or judicial authorities.

    National Strategy/National Action Plan

    In Italy, a complex structure for the assistance to trafficked persons has been in place since 2000. It works through three main tools:

      • Programmes for temporary assistance and long-term social protection
      • Free Helpline (Numero Verde Anti-tratta)
      • Programme for assisted voluntary return

    Such a structure is coordinated and supervised at the national level by the Department for Equal Opportunities of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, which is the central public authority in charge of promoting and coordinating anti-trafficking policies and actions, with a specific focus on a human rights and victim-centred approach, as well as Italy’s equivalent mechanism on trafficking in human beings.

    In 2013, with a view to implementing an even more comprehensive national strategy against THB, the Department for Equal Opportunities – in cooperation with all the national authorities committed to this issue and all other relevant public and private actors – will work on the development of a National Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Beings. Through an effective coordination among the Ministries, NGOs and associations involved, the Plan will be aimed at enhancing the governance of all national measures against THB and defining the effective cooperation among all national stakeholders involved in the protection of trafficked people and in the fight against THB. In particular, the Plan will focus on prevention, assistance and protection of victims, judicial cooperation, identification of potential victims, and adaptation of national legislation. The National Action Plan will also provide for the establishment of a national referral mechanism for trafficked persons, including minimum protection standards and standard operating procedures for the referral of victims to the proper service providers.

    In addition, the National Action Plan will include guidelines on how to design and implement a sustainable system aiming to both prosecute traffickers and provide support to victims, while defining suggested roles for governmental institutions and the civil society.

    The projects for the assistance of trafficked persons co-funded by the Department for Equal Opportunities are implemented by NGOs which, in order to be eligible for funding, need to be enrolled in a dedicated public register. The register (Register of organizations implementing activities for immigrants – Section 2) is managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies and is updated annually. The list of the relevant organizations can be downloaded from the following link:

    However, not all organizations included in the list are implementing projects for the assistance to trafficked persons co-funded by the Department for Equal Opportunities.

    Coordination of anti-trafficking action at the national level

    The assistance system for victims of trafficking is managed by the Inter-Ministerial Commission on Trafficking in Human Beings, which is composed of representatives of the Department for Equal Opportunities of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers (the coordinating body), the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies and the Ministry of the Interior, as well as by two representatives of local authorities (Regions, Provinces and Municipalities).

    National Rapporteur or Equivalent Mechanisms

    Italy’s equivalent mechanism on trafficking in human beings is the Department for Equal Opportunities of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Furthermore, since January 2011, the DEO has been acting also as the national observatory on trafficking in human beings. As such, it gathers documents and reports on THB, information on the national and international legal framework, as well as reference documents and judgments on a specific website providing a secure area on data collection where registered NGOs and local authorities working in this field can have access to enter information on trafficked persons assisted within the framework of the national assistance programmes co-funded by the State. As Italy’s equivalent mechanism, the Department for Equal Opportunities of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers uses a special database (the so-called SIRIT – Sistema Informatizzato di Raccolta Informazioni sulla Tratta – Computerized system for the collection of information on trafficking in human beings) to monitor the phenomenon. 



    A national toll-free anti-trafficking helpline has been in place since 2000. Within the framework of the system actions laid down in art. 18 of Legislative Decree No 286/1998, the Department for Equal Opportunities in partnership with the Ministry of the Interior has recently broadcasted an awareness-raising campaign at the national level to promote the anti-trafficking toll-free helpline and sensitize the public on the various forms of exploitation connected to trafficking in human beings (“La tratta cancella le persone, tu puoi cancellare la tratta” – “Trafficking deletes people, you can delete trafficking”- 2009). Furthermore, the Department for Equal Opportunities was partner of the campaign promoted and coordinated by the Romanian National Agency against Trafficking in Persons within the framework of a EU-funded project and broadcasted on the Web in Romania, Spain, Bulgaria and Italy (“La tratta non perdona” - "Trafficking in persons does not forgive” - "Traficul de persoane nu iarta", 2010). The campaign was aimed at raising awareness on trafficking for the purpose of forced prostitution. Less recently, in 2007, the Department promoted, in collaboration with the AICCRE (the Italian section of CEMR, the Council of European municipalities and regions), a national campaign called “tratta no” (“no trafficking”) to advertise the national anti-trafficking helpline. The initiative also included the elaboration of guidelines on the proper way to address the issue of trafficking by the media.

    Assistance and support provided to victims

    Programme for social assistance and integration

    The Inter-Ministerial Commission for the Support to Victims of Trafficking and Exploitation under the Department for Equal Opportunities is responsible for the coordination of assistance and protection of victims. Two special programmes exist for trafficked persons in Italy:

    1. Article 13 short-term programme

    The Article 13 Programme offers a set of protection and initial support measures for Italian, EU and non-EU victims of slavery, servitude and trafficking. According to the law, trafficked persons can benefit from a three-month programme that, when applicable, may be extended for a further three months. Victims receive accommodation, social assistance, and healthcare services. Once the programme is over, they can continue to be assisted under the Article 18 Programme.

    2.  Article 18 long-term programme: “Social Assistance and Integration Programme”

    The system to protect and assist trafficked persons currently in place in Italy is based on article 18 of Legislative Decree No 286/1998 and the related Regulation providing for the granting of a “humanitarian residence permit” to victims, the so-called “Article 18 permit”.

    Article 18 of Legislative Decree No 286/1998 (Immigration Law) establishes that temporary humanitarian residence permits may be issued to foreign citizens needing protection and assistance. This permit applies to foreign citizens in situations of abuse or serious exploitation where their safety is considered to be endangered as a consequence of attempts to escape from the conditioning of a criminal organisation or as a result of pursuing criminal action against traffickers.

    Once a victim is identified as such by the competent authorities, he/she can follow either:

      • The 'judicial path', which entails cooperation with law enforcement agencies; OR
      • The 'social path', which only requires the submission of a statement on behalf of the victim by an accredited non-governmental organisation or by the social services of a local authority.

    Both procedures can result in the issuance of a six-month temporary humanitarian residence permit, which is further renewable for 1 year and can be converted into a student or work residence permit, if necessary.

    Number of victims

    According to data provided by the Department for Equal Opportunities, from 2000 to 2012, 665 projects were co-funded within the framework of art. 18 of Legislative Decree No 286/1998 and, from 2006 to 2012, 166 projects were co-funded within the framework of art. 13 of Law No 228/2003. From 2000 to 2012, 21,347 people, including 1,196 children, were assisted in the framework of “art.18 programmes”, and, from 2006 to 2012, 3,704 people, including 203 children, received assistance under the “art. 13 programmes” (2012 data is still being elaborated. Therefore, the abovementioned figures might not be final). As for the nationality of assisted victims, it appears that the majority of them come from Nigeria (40% of the total number of victims), followed by people coming from Eastern Europe countries (Romania, Moldova, Albania, Bulgaria, Ukraine) and North Africa (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia), as well as by an increasing number of people coming from Asia (China, India, Pakistan).

    Special protective measures for children

    Trafficked children are provided with special assistance and care carried out by specialised services and professionals. Age-appropriate individual services are supplied under the national assistance projects for trafficked persons co-funded by the Department for Equal Opportunities, including dedicated shelters, specific counselling, medical and social support, in order to properly address the needs of such vulnerable children.

    Investigation and prosecution

    The Italian law enforcement agencies have increased the number of raids on the streets, in apartments, in night clubs and in other venues where prostitution takes place. As a result, the number of expulsions of irregular migrants involved in the trafficking chains has risen significantly.

    In Italy, investigations on human trafficking are carried out by the District Anti-Mafia Directorates (Direzioni Distrettuali Antimafia) and coordinated by the National Anti-Mafia Directorate (Direzione Nazionale Antimafia).

    According to the Italian authorities, human trafficking cases have been prosecuted under the offences of 'trafficking in persons' (Article 601 of the Italian Criminal Code), 'slavery' (Article 600) and 'trade of slaves' (Article 602).

    Latest initiatives/activities related to anti-trafficking policy

    An urging challenge that Italy is facing is the sustainability of anti-trafficking policy in the long run, particularly with regard to the funding of the national assistance system for trafficked persons. Italy set up a very effective and comprehensive assistance system whose implementation entails high costs (8.5 million Euros per year). Costs which cannot be borne only through the central state funds anymore. Thus, the Department is starting a project to sensitize and encourage local authorities (i.e. Regions) to take over the ownership of assistance measures implemented on their territories, by making proper use of their resources, with specific regard to the European Social Fund.

    The most important challenges at the national level

    The Italian model of protection and assistance for victims of trafficking is in line with the European standards. However, the next step will be to ensure a system which is sustainable in the long run. The main focus will therefore be on promoting and providing public services for victims of trafficking on a permanent basis and enhancing prevention activities, including awareness raising on trafficking for labour exploitation and other forms of non-sexual exploitation, and engaging society as a whole by working with all the relevant stakeholders, such as the corporate sector, the cultural and artistic sector and academia.

    Just like other European countries, Italy has been recently affected by the current economic crisis and suffered from relevant cuts in public expenditure, including in the public funding of the social protection projects implemented under art. 18 and art. 13 of the aforementioned provisions (Immigration Law No 286/1998 and Law No 228/2003). Nevertheless, although affected by strong economic cuts, the Department for Equal Opportunities has developed a strategic plan to preserve the necessary funding for the national assistance programmes for 2011 and 2012.

    National Referral Mechanism

    Within the framework of the National Referral Mechanism, which will be set up through the National Action Plan, guidelines will be developed for the identification of minimum standards for reception and assistance of victims, as well as for the definition of shared operating procedures. In this context, multi-agency memoranda of understanding to address THB cases will be signed, and further initiatives to promote the regular and systematic training of professionals working in this field (police officers, border police, immigration service officials, public prosecutors, lawyers, the judiciary and the judicial staff) will be undertaken.  


    Efforts to combat trafficking in human beings focus on the cooperation among law enforcement agencies, in particular on a bilateral level, in the field of organised crime and irregular migration. In 2009, Italy signed agreements with third countries including Algeria, Nigeria and Libya. This cooperation included technical assistance, such as the provision of equipment and technology to combat illegal migration, the setting up of information exchange channels, and the involvement of police forces from third countries in sea patrol operations.

    Re-admission agreements have also been signed with several countries of origin, including Albania (1997), Romania (1997) and Nigeria (2000). In compliance with these instruments, whenever a citizen from such countries is found to illegally stay in Italy, he/she may be immediately expelled.

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs finances projects in several countries of origin to raise awareness of trafficking in human beings among the public and potential victims. The Programme of Action against trafficking in minors and young women from Nigeria to Italy for the purpose of sexual exploitation was carried out in 2002-2004. The project was implemented by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and, inter alia, the Associazione Tampep Onlus (Turin). Three awareness-raising campaigns on trafficking for sexual exploitation were carried out, in collaboration with a coalition of six Nigerian non-governmental organisations.

    Future plans for the implementation of Directive 2011/36/EU

    The Italian government set up an inter-institutional working group in order to acknowledge the content of the directive. The working group is coordinated by the Legislative Office of the Ministry of Justice. A bill for the transposition of Directive 2011/36/EU has already been drafted and included in 2011 Community Law, which is currently in the process of being adopted by the Italian Parliament.

    As for the coming into force of the directive, we consider that the Italian legislative measures are generally in line with almost all the provisions laid down in it.

    However, certain aspects will require a deeper reflection in order to obtain legal advice as to which measures are to be implemented at the administrative or legislative levels, with specific regard, for instance, to the access to free legal counselling and the right to compensation.


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