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The Budapest European Conference on Trafficking in Human Beings

27 February 2012

The Budapest conference was a good starting point for the ISEC project. While reiterating the complexity of the fight against trafficking it brought home the necessity to address the missing link between law enforcement, health authorities and civil society organisations. Different panellists underlined the fact that providing synergy between law enforcement and health authorities is not only desirable form the human rights perspective, but provides significant criminal justice benefits, thus contributing to reinforce the security side of anti-trafficking approach.

The conference also provided a valuable insight into the evolving trafficking tendencies and exposed concrete needs of practitioners  in the field which should be used when developing training curricula. In this respect it provided further justification for the EU funding in this project. The main highlights of the conference can be summarised as follows:

  1. The European Union and EU Member countries’ anti trafficking polices considerable evolved from the middle of 90ties of the past century. From the first Vienna summit in 1996 to the Tampere EU summit conclusions in 1999, EU Brussels conference in 2002, the EU Hague and Stockholm programme in 2004 and 2010, the subject of trafficking in human beings gained increased attention of international and EU policy makers, resulting in a strong legislative response, accompanied by a number of practical projects in the countries of origin, transit and destination.
  1. Whereas the beginning of anti-trafficking policy was marked by a pronounced law enforcement-security approach, putting the accent on investigation and criminal justice part of the problem, the recent policy development shows the shift towards increased focus on the victims and prevention of trafficking. The Payoke project that seeks to reinforce cooperation between law enforcement and health authorities is a good illustration of this change.
  1. Trafficking in human beings is first and foremost a grave violation of human rights and the dignity of  human beings. Over the past couple of years the human rights approach has gained momentum in EU internal anti trafficking policies as well as in relations and cooperation with third countries. It has been mainstreamed in all EU anti trafficking policies and actions.
  1. Because of the highly lucrative character of trafficking business the forms of trafficking constantly change pattern. Whereas the majority of cases in the past represented trafficking for sexual exploitation of women, today we witness an increasing trend in trafficking for labour exploitation of man, women and children, increased trafficking of minors, trafficking of organs, bagging and forced marriages, as well as cases of internal trafficking.
  1. Trafficking cases are a very complex phenomena involving not only several countries in the process but a variety of stakeholders representing government agencies and civil society in the field of law enforcement, border management, social welfare, employment, housing, health and external relations. To be efficient, anti-trafficking policy is conditioned by partnership and cooperation of state and civil society organisations active in all these fields. Only a multi- disciplinary approach and commitment can bring about results.
  1. Strengthening synergies between the law enforcement and health authorities, combined with a specific training directed to the officials in the field can contribute to the rehabilitation of victims, their improved mental and physical health as well as their capacity to reintegrate into society in the country of origin. Catering for the health conditions of victims can not only build trust between victims and law enforcement authorities but can improve chances and quality of the victims’ participation in criminal proceeding and provide a valuable court testimony against traffickers. This in turn increases chances of successful prosecution and greater number of convictions.
  1. Providing for improved health conditions of victims and allowing them access to healthcare facilities has benefits for the victims of trafficking but also for the society as a whole. The costs of inaction greatly outweighs the benefits of targeted action, as victims can spread diseases such as TBC, HIV and other infectious diseases.
  1. Coherent training programmes for law enforcement and health authorities is necessary and needed. It should be carefully elaborated and designed by experts in order to provide subject matter expertise for each group of officials and adapt to their capacities and priorities.
  1. The successful outcome of this project can provide contribution to the implementation process of the 2010 EU Directive on prevention and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims. It reflects the Directive’s new victims- centred approach and contributes to the more successful prosecution of offenders.
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   With the support of the European Commission.