Providing essential support for human trafficking survivors

Friday 29 July 2022

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This 30th July marks the International Day against trafficking in persons. We call the world to enhance efforts in the fight against trafficking, protect the most vulnerable and empower those affected!

In every country around the globe, human traffickers exploit people for profit, and the vulnerable and the poor are most at risk. Trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation is a form of violence rooted in gender inequalities and remains the most widespread and reported form of trafficking in the EU since 2008.

Over 70% of detected trafficking victims are women and girls[1], while nearly one third are children. In particular, asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants, especially women and unaccompanied minors are most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking. The total number of 14 145 registered victims (EC, 2020) reported by the EU Member States for 2017 and 2018 is higher compared to the previous reporting period. It is likely that the actual number of victims is significantly higher than reported data as many victims remain undetected and especially now when new humanitarian crises hit Europe. Loss of jobs, growing poverty, school closures and a rise in online interactions are increasing vulnerabilities and opening up opportunities for organized crime groups. The crises have overwhelmed social and public services, impacted the work of law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and made it harder for victims to seek help.

Challenges that vulnerable women face in Sicily

In Sicily[2], there are a number of challenges that vulnerable women face.

The situation in the labour market is rather unfavorable, because of the generally precarious job market. In Palermo, many people are employed with precarious contracts, and the job market is even more difficult for migrants and migrant women. It means that in practice there is a tendency to exploitation, i.e. women do not receive regular contracts by employers, and thus do not receive a decent payment nor working hours respect legal restrictions.

Many women victims/survivors of trafficking have a rather low educational level, with some of them being even illiterate. In addition to that, they have a rather low motivation for attending courses or even informing themselves about opportunities for training/employment, therefore their social inclusion processes are hindered.

Finally, a number of challenges and shortcomings in the support services exist and many of the services do not ensure continuous support because they mostly work on project basis, therefore women who leave the reception centres are often left without further support.

And yet in these difficult times, we try to do our best to provide essential support for human trafficking survivors.

How do we provide support?

We strongly  believe in the importance of working at three levels:

  • For the prevention of violence (and its repetition) by addressing the needs of different individuals and groups of people who might be at risk of violence.
  • On the protection of victims and survivors by informing them about available support services, and providing relevant tools and building capacities of professionals on effective protection measures.
  • Towards supporting survivors, communities, professionals and other actors by documenting, mapping and reporting different support programmes and available opportunities. We also link survivors with relevant services and opportunities, and support in building their competencies for their empowerment.

Currently, with the WINGS project we are working to support the inclusion of women survivors of trafficking in the country of arrival facilitating their empowerment process while listening to them and learning from their experience and needs. For instance, CESIE is working on the  development of a generic framework for a survivor-centred integration, with which we aim to facilitate the socio-economic inclusion of women survivors of trafficking. To reach this aim we will implement a support programme based on language training with psychological support and the provision of personalized employment counseling for labour inclusion.

At the same time, we will conduct a national awareness campaign to inform local employers about the importance of creating an inclusive working environment for women in vulnerable conditions and to sensitize policy makers and the general public for the creation of specific support programmes for women survivors.

Human trafficking takes its roots where there is a lack of opportunities, therefore we strongly believe that investing in support and training programmes dedicated to survivors of trafficking, taking into consideration  their specific needs, desires and aspirations, is today crucial and urgent to curb this phenomenon.

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[1] According to the UNDOC’s 2020 Trafficking in Humans Report

[2] From findings of local roundtables implemented as a part of HEAL project ( in 2020 and included in the Public report available at