Trafficking in Human Beings is one of the most lucrative crimes and most severe violations of fundamental rights in the world with daunting consequences to all parties involved.
It is believed that human trafficking in Europe creates an annual revenue around 29.4 million. One forth of the 14,000 identified cases concern minors, mostly trapped in prostitution rings (64%), according to the report published by the Save the Children (Save the Children, 2021).
Italy is a country of destination and transit for women, children and men subjected to trafficking in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. In recent years, some transgender persons have also been trafficked for sexual exploitation in Italy. Although forced prostitution is still the main form of exploitation of trafficked persons in Italy – affecting women and girls – an increasing number of people (mainly men) is subjected to forced labour and debt bondage, mostly in the agricultural sector in southern Italy and the service sectors in northern Italy (DPO, 2021).
- The cases treated in Italy in 2021 by the anti-trafficking system were 1,911, mostly female sex exploitation (75.6%), and 3.3% minors.
- The prevailing age bracket (45.4%) is between 18 and 25 years old, but there are also those who aren’t even 17 yet.
- The highest number of exploited nationalities as reported in 2021 were Nigeria (65.6%), Pakistan (4.5%), Morocco (2.6%) and Gambia (2.5%) and the Ivory Coast (2.3%).
The figures Gambia and Ivory Coast in particular have increased over the last two years. These are young women who are considered double victims of exploitation for the abuses and extreme threats that leverage their condition of vulnerable single mothers (Save the Children, 2021).
Different research shows that during the last years criminal organizations active in human trafficking have adapted to transnational COVID-19 mobility restrictions (Save the Children, 2021; UNODC, 2022). What has emerged is the increase of indoor sex exploitation and through the internet, forcing young victims to accept even higher risks and underpaid, often illegal. Online chats, social media, online ‘placement agencies’, online fake immigration assistance sites to recruit potential victims, dark web forums, payment of services linked to cryptocurrency exploitation: The e-trafficking problem is prevalent in various communication channels and can refer to other types of exploitation beyond the sexual and labor remits (Save the Children, 2021).
- Italy in 2021 registered 5,316 cases of pedo-pornography – an increase of 47% compared to 2020 – and 531 minors who fell victim to online solicitation, with a high concentration for children between the ages 10 to 13.
Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims is considered as the benchmark legislation on the fight against trafficking in human beings at EU level. In December 2022, the European Commission proposed a revision of the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive, based on an impact assessment. The proposed revision is generally welcomed by civil society organizations; however, they (and us) regret the revision did not provide more protection for trafficked persons’ rights. In addition to reinforcing the criminal justice response to human trafficking, better protection of human rights should have been emphasized for all victims, especially migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented persons, as these individuals are particularly at risk of trafficking and other exploitative practices.
While waiting for more protection for trafficked persons’ rights from the EU and the national governments, over the last years, CESIE has promoted, as well as participated in, important transnational initiatives in the field of anti-trafficking:
- With WINGS – Supporting Women survivors of trafficking through a Comprehensive Integration Programme – we promote a multi-layered action addressing third-country-national women survivors of trafficking and developing the WINGS generic framework on survivor-centred social and economic inclusion.
- With Safe Hut – Holding safe spaces for women and girls’ empowerment – we support social and labour integration of women and adolescent girls’ victims/survivors of trafficking by establishing safe spaces where women and girls are supported through processes of empowerment.
- With DISRUPT – Enhance Digital led InvestigationS, pRosecutions and jUdicial resPonses for dismantling Trafficking chains of children – we work to improve investigations, prosecutions and the judicial response based on digital evidence in the area of trafficking of children paying special attention to the international dimension of the phenomenon.
As 30 July marks the World Day against Trafficking in Persons we want to highlight that we will continue to raise awareness about the issue and to promote and protect the rights of trafficking victims, and with this occasion we ask the EU and national governments for more protection for trafficked persons’ rights.