Technical Seminar on Trafficking in Human Beings: Women and Girls

Technical Seminar on Trafficking in Human Beings: Women and Girls

The ACP-EU Migration Action co-organised, together with the European Commission and the ACP Secretariat, a Technical Seminar on Trafficking in Human Beings with a specific focus on women and children, at the request of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The seminar, which took place at the ACP House in Brussels in June 2018, brought together various stakeholders, including government representatives and non-state actors from ACP and EU states, as well as experts from UN Women, UNODC, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), and the European Network of Migrant Women (ENMW). Following on two previous seminars held in 2014 and 2016 as well as a Peer-to-Peer Exchange Meeting (2017) on Trafficking in Human Beings and Smuggling of Migrants, this years’ meeting aimed to focus on the particularities of Trafficking of Women and Children and to clarify confusion between the concepts.

Both ACP and the EU are committed in the fight against trafficking of women and children. According to UNODC, 79% of all detected trafficking victims are women and children. Unaccompanied children, in particular, are more exposed to the risks of exploitation, sexual violence and forced labour. Figures show that children comprise the second largest group of victims of trafficking globally and account for between 15-30% of the victims assisted by IOM over the past 10 years.

ACP representatives expressed their concerns about the negative consequences of THB upon ACP women due to the extremely high casualties, human rights abuses and systematic exploitation and abuse of women victims of the criminal networks of human traffickers. Equally alarming are the large potential profits derived from the exploitation of children, the accepted cultural practices that are possibly enabling trafficking, absence of solid institutions dedicated to child protection. These constitute significant factors in enhancing children's vulnerability to THB. Unfortunately, the necessary referrals to national child protection systems do not always exist, are not always implemented or not implemented promptly.

The ACP Group is therefore advocating for a coordinated and comprehensive response of all ACP and EU partner countries in support of law enforcement cooperation, and collaboration as to facilitate effective and timely investigation and prosecution. The ACP Group also reiterated the importance of targeting the financial incentives of related transnational crimes and take into account specificities such as the logging/mining industries in Solomon Islands. DG DEVCO highlighted the need to tackle human trafficking in a spirit of shared responsibility, deepening cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination, and fostering a "south-south" perspective.

During the seminar, the importance of gender-sensitive prevention efforts, as well as gender and child-sensitive victim support services within a comprehensive child protection system was reiterated.

An overview on the ACP-EU Migration Action and the presentation of a relevant study by IOM complemented the information and discussion with a focus on trafficking in human beings.

The outcomes, which also form practical recommendations, of the Technical Seminar can be summarized as follows:

  • Women and children are disproportionally affected by trafficking.  The need to address demand was further stressed.
  • Targeting and confiscating profits (‘follow-the-money’ approach) as an effective means of investigation and of sanctioning human trafficking and the targeting of all intermediaries throughout the trafficking chain;
  • As the majority of trafficking is domestic and inter-regional, south-south trafficking should be given a greater priority among international and regional actors;
  • Participants recommended increased budget allocations for anti-trafficking work by States, and for establishing systems to evaluate the sustainability of approaches adopted so far;
  • As a follow-up on to the recent ACP-EU Migration Action publication highlighting good practices at the policy level, participants recommended developing more practical recommendations for specific work on the ground;
  • Expanding data collection systems and capacities were called for both at the national and regional level, including sub-regionally, in order to enhance evidence-based policy making;
  • Governments need to assume responsibilities, including improving basic governance structures, in effectively combating human trafficking;
  • Due to the limited impact of awareness raising campaigns when targeting only potential victims, efforts should target a wide range of actors involved in responding to the crime, including: judiciary and law enforcement staff, as well as border management officers. Targeting various stakeholders, such as customary and traditional leaders and diaspora communities would also be relevant;
  • The only sustainable means of preventing human trafficking is to address its structural root causes: poverty, lack of access to education and economic opportunities, gender inequality and discriminatory social norms and gender-based violence, amongst others;
  • A comprehensive approach was welcomed unanimously, highlighting the need to continue ensuring that human trafficking is systematically mainstreamed into all relevant policy areas;
  • The need to enhance transnational cooperation, in particular with respect to law enforcement, judicial actors and intelligence sharing, but also in developing and strengthening transnational referral mechanism.
  • Increased donor coordination was called for by participants.