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The Third Expert Group Meeting, The Hague

25 June 2012


The final  of three Expert meetings held in the framework of the ISEC project  was attended by 18 experts including the project partners, law enforcement officials, NGO's, representatives from  Frontex and Eurojust as well as  health practitioners and health experts. The main subject of the meeting was Integration, Reintegration and Post trial assistance to the victims of human trafficking. However, as it was the last expert meeting a great deal of time was dedicated to discussing the structure, content and other elements of the training curricula that are being prepared by the Krems University.  The distinguished participants provided valuable analyses and opinions on how to establish a solid basis for cooperation between Law enforcement and health professionals in order to enhance the victim’s ability to provide an accurate and coherent statement which could be used for the purpose of criminal proceedings. 

What follows is the summary of the discussion, main conclusions and recommendations for the next stage of the project development.

A proposal for the  draft training curricula was presented by the Krems University and put forward for discussion. The idea is to develop curricula as a tool to be tested by project beneficiaries, this is to say law enforcement, health officials and NGOs who should be the end users of this product. Depending on the results, it will be then adapted in order to accommodate policies, practices and legal framework of each of the eleven member states participating in the project.

There will be four training modules each of which  dealing with Victims' identification, Prosecution and Integration/reintegration and post-trial assistance – the main themes of the project Expert Group meetings that were held in Antwerp, Krems and The Hague.

The first module will address the management aspect, touching upon the issues of main actors in the field and organisational/institutional structures put in place according to the law. The second module targets law enforcement and border guards, whereas the third module concentrates on health care issues, following the same scheme as the two previous modules and looking at the legal situation, policies and practices. The fourth module deals with  social work, NGOs and religious organisations, that are instrumental during the post trial and integration phase of human trafficking. Each module is meant to raise awareness of police officials and health practitioners, while providing them with the knowledge of the existing laws, regulations in the field of trafficking. Case studies are an integral part of the curricula, giving the possibility to demonstrate the practical use of knowledge and point out to what works in the concrete situation. Taking into account specific situation of the country where the test/try out training sessions are planned to take place (Portugal, Austria, Moldova and Albania) the modules will address the gaps and provide tailor made solutions that can fit into the each country’s specific environment.

In addition, each try out training session will be evaluated, using the questionnaires to be developed to this aim. The purpose of the evaluation is to measure and assess the knowledge and skills of training beneficiaries acquired during the test training sessions.  In the same vein the cost- benefit analyses will be provided for. Still to be clarified and defined is the distinction between the curriculum, manual and training.

Given the divergent interests of law enforcement and health sector, what still remains to be solved is the question of how to motivate the potential participants (especially among health professionals) to attend and commit themselves to cooperate. Careful selection should be made to invite appropriate officials and relevant actors for whom the interface with their counterparts in the health/police sector shall be beneficial. That implies careful tread and proper inter- institutional analyses.  Ultimately the interaction should result in creating a conducive environment for trust building, leading towards a more sustainable cooperation between security forces and health professionals and thus strengthening the anti-trafficking response.

Regarding the profile of participants, the project provides for the attendance of 40 beneficiaries, consisting of 10 management representatives, 10 law enforcement representatives, 10 health practitioners and 10 representatives of the civil society. In addition the test training sessions will be attended by 15 experts in the filed of trafficking. Each test/try out training session will be monitored by an observer who should be tasked with evaluation and moderation. Choosing among the most knowledgeable experts in the field of health practitioners dealing human trafficking several lecturers will be selected. They will have to possess strong knowledge of the human rights aspect of trafficking. 

In the follow up of the Expert meeting the representatives from  Albania informed about the trafficking laws, policies and practices in Albania. Being increasingly the country of origin, instead of transit of victims, Albania has made big strides in countering trafficking phenomena. Recognised by the government as an important matter, the subject of trafficking in human beings has been endowed by the legal framework, corresponding institutions and a growing interest and involvement of the civil society. A part of the recent development of the Albanian anti-trafficking strategy several ministries, including the Ministry of Interior, Education, Foreign Affaires, Labour and Social affairs have signed a formal agreement defining the tasks and responsibilities of each of them in the process of implementation of anti-trafficking policies. Practical consequences of this agreement will imply the change in the social protection system, the commitment of additional human and financial resources as well as the better protection of borders. In February 2011 Albania has also adopted the new National Action Plan for the fight against trafficking. Because of the importance  attached  to the link between health and human trafficking, Albania has developed a Standard Operational Procedure that has been approved by the government in 2011. The Focal points for trafficking appointed within several ministries of the Albanian government are part of the regional referral mechanism. To improve their skills training sessions are organised not only for them but for all institutions participating in the recently signed inter institutional agreement. Civil society and NGOCivil society and NGO' the Ministry of Health that has a Focal Point dealing with trafficked victims are also part of the training. The trainings consist of explaining how the Standard Operating Procedures apply in specific sectors. Health professionals are also trained (some 1600 in total).

As a result of Albania's efforts, the number of victims has decreased in the  recent years and the preventive measures consisting of decentralisation of the management and particular focus placed on ethnic (i.e. Roma) minorities are put in place. Strong accent has been put on the role of schools in raising awareness and promoting gender equality. However, the long term prevention strategies still need to be conceived and more efforts should be made to change the public perception. Children and their rights, as well as gender equality and the respect for human rights should maker greater part in future endeavours. 

During the second day of the Meeting some remaining questions were clarified. It was decided that the beneficiaries of training sessions will be part of the process and not passive recipients of the try out training. In this manner, the four sessions will be considered as pilot evaluations of the curricula. Given the specific situation in each country and based on the feedback from the beneficiaries, the curricula modules will be revised accordingly. Every country can then use them as a basis for future training. The importance of the case study based method with concrete examples from other countries was reiterated. Being at the centre of the curricula, the national case studies will also demonstrate how a country at stake implement the law and international obligations stemming from the anti trafficking international conventions.

At the EU Agency level, the Cepol is in the process of preparing E-training courses, whereas the Joint Statement signed between EU Agencies at the Anti Trafficking Day 2011 foresees complementary training programmes. In the framework of the  EU 2012 Work Programme for Prevention and Fight against Crime the European Commission has committed 6 M € for prevention, protection and support, prosecution and investigation, establishment of partnership and training of officials likely to come into contact with victims. Frontex for its part has developed Manual for Border Guards consisting of 11 Modules/5 pages each. Identification of the victims stands out as one of the central issues with health of the victims being part of it. In this sense, the Payoke/ISEC project is a welcome complement to the EU Agencies’ ongoing endeavours.

The issue of trainers/presenters at the try-out sessions was broached. Two trainers/presenters should be appointed for each session, with one of them being from the country in which the test/try out training takes place. Also discussed was the  length of a try out training, with proposals being put forward for one day training and an evaluation carried out on the second day.

Experts from Belgium shared their experience about contacts established  with three medical doctors in Belgium: the  head of the tropical institute, a forensic doctor and the head of emergency service. Whereas the doctors’  reaction to the project was mixed, they were apparently not aware of the law allowing for the breach of confidentiality – a crucial element in establishing the contact with law enforcement officers. When informed about the law they allowed for the possibility to disclose the patient information without mentioning patient’s name. The need to provide doctors with figures was stressed as an important element to make them aware of the incidence of trafficking. To draw attention to the issue of trafficking, it was recommended to encourage Universities to organise a symposium on the issue of health and trafficking.

In spite of the considerable efforts of EU Member States against human trafficking, the issue of health was hitherto not reflected enough in the anti-trafficking policies. This project can serve as a starting point for a new approach, providing recommendations for the institutionalised policy action and initiating the process of formulating political decision at the higher levels of policy making. A recommended approach should consist of a carefully weighted balance between human rights, patent rights and security/public health interest approach.

The Netherlands has established a Notification code for domestic violence. As reiterated several times the model of domestic violence could serve as a basis for developing parts of the curricula for health professionals. The Netherlands model is a generic one, providing guidelines and allowing each institution to create its own conduct. The guidelines consist of steps to undertake in the encounter with a patient/child being subject of domestic violence.  If  emulated for the purpose of human trafficking this model increases chances of  the trafficking curricula modules to be acknowledged by medical association and staff and applied by the physicians in their daily work. The European Medical Association should be approached to see if the Notification code exists in other European countries.

The expert meeting was concluded by the Payoke’s presentation of measures for victim’s integration/reintegration. The reintegration is a two ways process that implies the successful insertion of a person in a new society – or the reinsertion back in the country of origin – in order to become an effective member of the society.

What is important about the reintegration is the fact that it starts at the beginning not at the end of the process. As soon as the victim is identified the process of integration should set off. It consists of measures related to housing, legal counselling, access to rights, medical and psychological care, vocational training and education. To enable victims’ rehabilitation (especially for those victims staying in destination country) and open up the possibility for their  later development,  language courses are a very important and useful measure.

The Belgian model is highly developed ,where reception centres, NGO’s and health services support victims by providing psychological assistance, counselling on hygiene and health care issues and even cover some expenses incurred during the process. 

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