Regional Office Italy
International Organization for Migration IOM
TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS IN AN ENLARGING EU -
TOWARDS A CO-ORDINATED EUROPEAN APPROACH?
Rome, 13 November 2003
Lecture in the International Seminar for Experts "European Migration and
Refugee Policy: New Developments", organised by the Cicero Foundation in
the series Great Debates, Rome, 13-14 November 2003.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In my intervention today, I intend to describe why this issue commands growing
attention and some concrete contributions to combating this criminal abuse of
human rights. Indeed, this particularly abusive form of exploitation, in particular
of women, seems to be growing. It has also become a multi-million dollar business
often linked to organized criminal networks.
A map drawn on the basis of observation and research would illustrate that,
for a whole range of reasons, migrant smuggling and trafficking touch practically
every country in the world today - whether as a source country, a destination
or a transit zone - or increasingly, as all three at the same time.
But migrant smuggling and trafficking are not new phenomena. Why, then, do
they appear to have exploded so dramatically in terms of numbers, global reach
and visibility? Well, is it really so surprising that global revolutions in
information, transport, trade and investment would affect people's perceptions
of their own personal situation; their knowledge of the greater world around
them; and their attitudes toward migration?.
Globalization has brought more and more countries, and previously remote zones
of countries, into contact with the wider world. Whether drawn by what they
see abroad or pushed by what they don't see at home, the pool of people who
today would consider migrating - and who can realistically make their wish to
migrate come true - has clearly increased. When these basic ingredients are
mixed with one part rising expectations of a better standard of living, two
parts unemployment or underemployment at home, and one part the promise of a
job abroad, they make the ingredients for a powerful cocktail.
Half of All International Migrants are Women
Even though migration has always involved individuals of both sexes, today we
see that women account for nearly half of all international migrants. This has
been attributed to various elements: these include family reunification, growing
world-wide demand in female-dominated jobs within the service sector, the pursuance
of family survival strategies in deteriorating economic conditions, and generally
an increasing independence of women in many countries.
Contrary to the popular view that women are mere potential followers of men
in migration, there is growing evidence that women in fact play a key role in
this process. Through migration, women often have the possibility to take remunerated
employment and thereby improve not only their personal welfare but also the
welfare of their families through remittances.
More and more, we see women migrating autonomously in search of temporary labour
or acting as pioneers in the establishment of migration chains to be later completed
by other family members. Yet their job opportunities and success is limited
by the kinds of work available to them.
As a result of the traditional sex-segregation by occupation practised by many
countries of origin and destination, female migrants tend to be concentrated
in a few female-dominated occupations, such as domestic services, entertainment,
and nursing. For the majority of migrant women, employment in the country of
destination is their first remunerated work. As both women and foreigners, they
risk finding themselves at the bottom of occupational hierarchies where labour
standards are lacking and working conditions are poor. Migrant women also tend
to be pushed towards marginal types of employment such as part-time, low-wage
or under-employment. Migrant women generally earn less than native-born and
migrant men and less than native-born women.
Trafficking in women involves both gender and basic human rights abuses, and
entails numerous risks. These include unsafe travel, violence (especially sexual
violence), exploitation, forcing into criminal activity and deprivation of access
to social services. Trafficking in women is often associated with forced prostitution,
where women have fallen prey to promises of well-paid jobs. Trafficking is,
however, not limited to sexual exploitation of women. They are also trafficked
for marriage, domestic labour, bonded sweatshops and other types of forced labour
Trafficking is characterized by the coercion and physical and psychological
violence exercised by traffickers on their victims. Its root causes are the
same as for trafficking in human beings in general.
The term is increasingly accepted to define a phenomenon involving abusive,
coercive trade and exploitation - in slavery-like conditions - of individuals
who are not necessarily international migrants. "Smuggling", on the
other hand, is focused on the illicit transport of migrants across international
borders. And while the smuggled may suffer mistreatment, too - a fact we should
not forget - they voluntarily turn to smugglers, and are not recruited or coerced.
Trafficking and smuggling arise out of economic, social and demographic conditions
that encourage desperate or ambitious people to migrate in spite of the rules
and provide the traffickers and smugglers with their illicit business opportunities.
Clearly, a major factor is the growing gap between the "haves" and
the "have nots" - within countries, where the "have nots"
see little opportunity to advance and attain their goals for themselves and
their families; and between countries, as development proceeds unevenly and
opportunity seems to beckon just next door or down the road. But what provides
the most powerful enticement to turn to smugglers is the mismatch between legal
migration slots and the actual demand for them. Tantalizing opportunities are
on display, and the price for grabbing them may not seem so high when put in
a context of likely future earnings and human nature's tendency to rationalize
away the likelihood of suffocating in a cargo container, dying of thirst in
the desert, or drowning in the Mediterranean sea. Those things only happen to
others, of course.
But economic opportunity is not the only factor. Armed conflict and instability,
a stifling political or social climate, an environment so despoiled that it
can no longer support the livelihood of its inhabitants: all of these also figure
in the mix.
The Growing Need for Workers
Networks in receiving countries play a role as well. Moreover - particularly
in the case of women migrants - the breakdown of societal norms which previously
militated against work outside the home (never mind outside the country), as
well as the low social status and exclusion from job markets which minorities
or other vulnerable groups suffer in many deteriorating economies, further encourage
Anchor communities in countries of destination -- and the increasing ease of
communication with them -- provide bridges and roadmaps for the illegal networks
as well as for their clients and victims.
Perhaps the most powerful force driving all forms of irregular migration is
the mismatch between legal opportunities for migration and the growing need
for workers and specialists in the developed economies. Declining birth rates
and longer life expectancy create employment needs in the industrialised world
that cannot be met without the help of newcomers.
Despite the existing demand for certain categories of foreign labour in many
destination countries, especially within the service sector, numerous States
have imposed stricter border controls and restrictions on entry. A major result
of this situation has been the increase in irregular migration, and the growth
of a parallel market for services, where traffickers in search of considerable
and lucrative profits offer potential migrants various services such as fraudulent
travel documents, transportation, accommodation and job brokering.
With few exceptions, legal migration opportunities have been shrinking in much
of the world. Shrinking even though demand for foreign labour in some sectors
of receiving country economies either has remained unchanged or has even grown
as a result of an ageing and changing national labour force. Irregular migration
often fills such gaps, but at a cost to society in terms of creating both an
undocumented underclass and the perception of government having lost control
over its borders. One result is that public pressure to crack down on irregular
migration mounts. But if "control" is the only policy lever that is
pulled, the imbalances that feed the irregular migration flows in the first
place will still remain. Nothing will have been done about the other ingredients
of the migration cocktail - whose complete list of ingredients I shall come
to later - except to increase the cost of some of them.
Traffickers and smugglers are in fact exploiting a demand. In business terms,
trafficking and smuggling are relatively low-risk, high-gain enterprises. It
is therefore no surprise that transnational criminal networks have moved into
Since borders have been set up there have always been smugglers and traffickers.
What is vastly different now is the degree of sophistication required to succeed.
Ironically enough, this is at least partially the result of Governments' very
success in addressing earlier shortcomings or loopholes in their migration systems.
Whatever the cause, though, as what is required for smugglers to succeed becomes
more complicated and costly - convoluted travel arrangements, falsified documents,
safe houses, etc. - the old "mom and pop" outfits increasingly are
squeezed out of the market. This is where organized criminal networks move in,
experienced and well equipped as many are to transport drugs and other contraband
- even if one should avoid an automatic correlation between the two. It's no
great leap to "diversify" into a new "commodity" - people
- as appears to have happened in the Balkans.
Tougher legislation to criminalize migrant smuggling and human trafficking
and to harmonize penalties internationally is slowly coming along. Full implementation
of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its
Protocols should lead to achieving this goal.
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially
Women and Children will come into force on 26 December 2003. The Protocol now
has 117 signatures and 42 ratifications. Once in force all states that have
ratified it have to ensure that their national policies and practice fully comply
with the Protocol.
The United Nations protocol against the smuggling of migrants will enter into
force on 28 January next year after Azerbaijan became the fortieth country to
ratify the measure. The smuggling of migrants is defined as the procurement
of the illegal entry of a person into a state of which they are not a citizen
or resident, for financial or material benefit.
Both protocols supplement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized
Crime, which came into force on 29 September 2003. The UN Secretary-General
will convene a Conference of the Parties to the Convention, no later than September
2004 in order to monitor implementation of the Convention.
The protocols require participant countries to incorporate its provisions into
domestic law, to seek out and prosecute offenders and to improve international
cooperation on the issue.
The European Conference against Trafficking in Human Beings, organized in Brussels
in September 2002 by IOM and the European Commission, issued the "Brussels
Declaration". This compendium of good practices and lessons learned has
been recognized by the Council of Ministers and an expert group has been set
up to monitor its implementation within EU Member State policies on counter-trafficking.
The Council of Europe too has become active and has set up an expert committee
to begin drafting over the next 12 months a European Convention on trafficking
which would supplement the existing UN Protocol. The Convention will give prominence
to victims' protection, with access to assistance not being solely dependent
on denouncing traffickers - somewhat following the Italian example. It will
also have an independent follow-up mechanism which will issue reports and be
able to visit countries as part of its investigations - as the Council of Europe's
committee against torture already does.
Smuggling of migrants is defined as the procurement of the illegal entry of
a person into a state of which they are not a citizen or resident, for financial
or material benefit. The borders between smuggling and trafficking however are
not always easy to define: it is not uncommon that a person having approached
a trafficker to obtain smuggling services finds herself reduced to a slave-like
Here in Italy investigations into trafficking in human beings for the purpose
of exploitation are coordinated by the central office of the Criminal police,
while smuggling of migrants falls under the immigration office.
Italy's Innovative Approach
Attention for the human rights of migrants in legislation and practice is also
Italy's particularly innovative approach to victims of trafficking is reflected
in article 18 of the Alien Law. This article provides for issuing a special
six-month residence permit that may be extended for a year or more, as required.
This special permit allows the holder access to social and assistance services,
study, as well as enrolment with the national employment agency, while it can
also be converted into a regular two-year residence permit for study.
While special protective measures for victims of trafficking are used as a
sort of reward (for collaboration with law enforcement agencies) in most European
legal systems, article 18 expands protection to all victims regardless of whether
they decide to collaborate with police authorities or not. In addition, the
instrument is designed to ensure full rehabilitation of the victim since it
is renewable. A long line of case law as established that this provision is
extendable to all sorts of victims of serious exploitation and not limited to
victims of sexual exploitation. Approximately 2000 residence permits have been
issued based on article 18. Law 228 approved in August 2003 gives specific competence
to National Anti-Mafia Directorate by considering trafficking as an activity
equivalent to Mafia-style crimes. This results in punishment and the possibility
to confiscate the assets of criminals in favour of a fund that benefits victims.
In the same law the Ministry for Equal Opportunity has been given the authority
to indicate to indicate to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs areas of origin
of victims in order to focus cooperation interventions on such zones.
Law enforcement efforts need also to be supported by other programmes that
more directly address the root causes of migration and provide legal, managed
Replacing irregular with regular migration is the best way to undercut the
appeal of the traffickers and smugglers. This not so much because all irregular
migration will cease as a result of the opening up of legal channels but because
it gives enforcement a strong argument that regular channels do exist to fill
available job opportunities. Nevertheless, we have to assume that trafficking
and smuggling will not disappear any time soon.
In response to all these factors, my organization favours a multi-facetted
approach including research, prevention, attention to migrants' rights, capacity-building
for governments, organized labour migration and assistance and protection for
Understanding the patterns and dynamics of trafficking and smuggling is essential
to addressing them effectively. We thus carry out research to inform policy-makers
and practitioners, and to ensure the relevance of its programmes. In fact, irregular
migration, including trafficking and smuggling, is a growing phenomenon. A recent
study by IOM revealed that there are up to 30 million irregular migrants worldwide
at any one time, of which more than 50% are estimated to have been smuggled
Let me however caution you: hard global data on this phenomenon are non-existent.
There are "guesstimates" about global trafficking in women, about
irregular migration, about smuggling in Europe - but no global statistics. Nevertheless,
we live in a real world where there is enough information from a variety of
sources to know that migrant trafficking is significant in size, and we can
also paint a picture of what it looks like on a global scale.
The Role of the IOM
In the prevention field, IOM conducts nation-wide information campaigns to
inform potential victims of the dangers of trafficking and irregular migration.
Awareness raising activities also target schools, urban and rural community
groups and families. The public information and educational element of our work
is of growing importance. Last month, for instance, at the 11th Festival of
Advertising in Opatija, the jury awarded the "GOLDEN BELL" for the
best comprehensive campaign in 2003, to the IOM campaign "Trafficking in
In the capacity building field, IOM carries out training activities for government
officials and NGOs in good practices to prevent and combat trafficking and smuggling,
and assist the victims. IOM also provides technical assistance in the drafting
of counter trafficking legislation.
In the area of law enforcement coordination, we help governments gather, evaluate
and exchange information. We provide practical training to national and international
law enforcers in how to detect and intercept traffickers and collect and analyze
In addition, we cooperate with governments in witness protection, where the
interests of prosecution argue for the trafficked migrants to remain in the
country of destination for a time in exchange for testimony.
To assist and protect the victims, IOM works with NGOs, international organizations
and government agencies to provide legal and medical counselling and other welfare
services. Together with partners such as NGOs and the OSCE we also provide safe
shelters and accommodation for the victims while they await durable solutions,
sometimes at considerable risk to the safety of our staff.
While preventive and punitive measures are working simultaneously to effect,
over time, a reduction in the scale of trafficking, there remains the issue
of dealing with the victims if integration in host societies is not feasible.
There is another segment, which focuses essentially on facilitating return -
but with nuances. Return and Reintegration assistance can range from a modest
allowance to referral and counselling, skills training or micro-enterprise support
In any case, the need for concerted international efforts against trafficking
and smuggling will surely continue for years to come. Everybody is in this together.
Successful prevention at one border along the way leaves a smuggled migrant
population in front of that barrier. What previously was a transit country can
thus quickly become a destination by default - and may even be a relatively
attractive one, even if it wasn't the original destination. And even if the
transit country remains just that - a transit country - it is suddenly confronted
with a transient population that it is often ill prepared to deal with. Moreover,
whether at the source, en route or at the final border crossing, organized crime
has a considerable stake in delivering its "goods." It can and does
use the significant resources at its disposal to undermine the integrity of
borders, civil servants and communities, all along the migration chain.
For reasons such as these, multi-national operations like trafficking in migrants
are unlikely to be countered successfully by a string of unilateral, disparate
Recognition of the benefits of multilateral dialogue and cooperation for collectively
understanding and addressing migration has grown considerably since the International
Conference on Population and Development was held in Cairo in 1994. Regional
and sub-regional consultation processes have indeed blossomed since then in
the Americas, Asia and Europe, and are starting to develop in Africa as well.
One of the most interesting characteristics of all these consultation processes
is that they have developed into regular, constructive opportunities for a migration
dialogue among countries of origin, transit and destination - that is to say,
groups of countries with obviously differing perspectives on many migration
issues. Migrant smuggling and trafficking are consistently among the major items
on their agendas. And the similarities in the paths of their dialogue have been
Beginning with identifying the desirability of strengthening and harmonizing
national legislation, a consensus has developed on the need to share information
- among police authorities of course, but also among migration officials and
diplomats. A prime example is the Puebla Process, comprising all of Central
and North America and parts of the Caribbean. This group has gone so far as
to create a virtual secretariat to facilitate electronic communication amongst
participants. Workshops and training sessions on specific topics- such as document
fraud or respect for migrants rights - have also been concrete outcomes. And
a stronger capacity to deal with smuggling nationally and regionally - including
a network of personal contacts to facilitate cooperation across borders - has
been a major product of the more advanced consultations.
Last year in Tunis, the ten States of the Western Mediterranean issued the
"Tunis Declaration", a document that has led to the establishment
of a dialogue process in this important region and that was continued last month
in Rabat. Measures to counter trafficking and smuggling feature prominently
in the declaration.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is no easy, simple policy response to trafficking - in women, in children,
in human beings in general. The phenomenon brings together human aspirations
for personal betterment, potential for great profit, clever professional criminals,
legitimate concern for law and order and controllable borders, and humanitarian
obligations. But I would like to close with two points I hope we can all agree
on. First, that multi-dimensional and collective responses to trafficking provide
the best opportunity for success, and second, that even when the trafficked
may be misguided, they are human beings and deserve to be treated in a humane
and dignified manner.