The migration’s dark side: modern slavery and human trafficking

The third and the last day of the conference “Protection of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations” organized by IOM and EMN Slovakia dealth with modern slavery and human trafficking. Assistant Professor in Antislavery Law at the University of Nottingham Katarina Schwarz introduced the session by explaining that slavery is not a crime in almost half the countries in the world. Human trafficking and slavery are synonymous and deal with the exploitation of humans. She pointed out the importance of defining modern slavery around a common definition which entails also labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage. Difficulties pile up in both identifying and punishing these crimes. Although slavery (ownership of a person) is banned in all countries of the world, problems emerge when one has to identify the extension of the world “control”.

Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bristol Samuel Okyere discussed the global anti-trafficking framework. In the last 30 years, we prioritized borders protection over human rights, Okyere commented. He focused his intervention, particularly on the concerning Africa-Europe migration fluxes – one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented topics in global migration studies. According to IOM (2019), 80 percent of African migration occurs within the continent itself. Contrary to what is thought especially in Europe, Africans are least likely to migrate. Concerning human trafficking, there are multiple, sometimes oppositional, and shifting understandings of trafficking from different “claims makers” on trafficking. These include 1) Government and state parties: migration, crime, and border controls. 2) Anti-prostitution NGOs: sex trafficking. 3) Migrant rights organizations, labour rights, and sex work advocacy organizations.

Zsuzsanna Felkai Janssen, Anti-Trafficking Team Leader of the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Office in Belgium, addressed trafficking in human beings within the EU and the measures to tackle it. She introduced the audience to the EU “Anti-trafficking Directive”. On average, she reported quoting the European Commission’s studies, 7.000 victims of human trafficking are registered in the EU per year – which is significantly high for the continent. The EU countries registering the most victims in 2021 were France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Romania. In the same year, sexual exploitation made up 55 percent of the share of trafficking cases. Labour exploitation represented 30 per cent of trafficking cases. The share of other forms of exploitation, including use for benefit fraud, criminal activities, and forced begging, amounted to 17 percent in 2021. In this year, 64 percent of all the victims in the EU were female.

Senior Regional Thematic Specialist for Protection (IOM) Heather Komenda presented global estimates and datasets on human trafficking and concrete examples of effective assistance to the victims. She also introduced the IOM’s victim of human trafficking database: the organization assists an estimated 8.000 victims of trafficking every year across the globe. It is the largest database of its kind in the world, containing data on nearly 70.000 people. Investigative Journalist & Pulitzer prize-winner from the Associated Press Martha Mendoza concluded the third and last session of the conference by focusing on how to best cover and communicate human trafficking stories. Mendoza passionately addressed the audience the stuck people in South Eastern Asia, with a specific look on the imprisonment of migrants in delicate and precarious situations, including the Southern border of the U.S.

Amedeo Gasparini

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Pubblicato da Amedeo Gasparini

Amedeo Gasparini, class 1997, freelance journalist, managing “Blackstar”, MA in “International Relations” (Univerzita Karlova, Prague – Czech Republic); BSc in “Science of Communication” (Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano – Switzerland)