- Several EU countries do not apply the ‘reflection period’ and/or do not have a formal National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in place to identify and assist victims and support their full social inclusion.
- Assistance is nearly always dependent on victims’ cooperation with the authorities, in contrast with the principle of unconditional assistance.
- The non-punishment principle is not implemented or not implemented correctly. Also, trafficked persons are not addressed adequately regarding their vulnerabilities and their gender-related needs.
- Anti-trafficking institutions and organisations do not receive sufficient resources, and, in many countries, political and legal anti-trafficking measures tend to focus mainly on criminalisation and to conflate with restrictive migration policies, increasing persons’ vulnerability to exploitation.
- Many EU member states lack National Rapporteurs or fully independent equivalent mechanisms.
Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims adopted a holistic, human rights and gender-sensitive approach, following the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Actions against Trafficking in Human Beings (THB). It draws attention to the need of protecting victims and preventing THB, in addition to prosecuting traffickers.
The Directive also contains the important definition of ‘position of vulnerability’ which is a situation in which the person has no real alternative but to submit to the abuse involved. Rather than limiting vulnerability to the person’s inherent characteristics, this definition also considers the circumstantial and structural factors that make them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and leave them without an alternative.
Ten years after the adoption of Directive 2011/36/EU, its progressive character has not been reflected in most of the member states’ legislations, and it has not been implemented sufficiently on a national level, notably with regard to the identification, protection and assistance of victims (EPRS, 2020).
To assess the challenges and gaps in the implementation of Directive 2011/36/EU, the VULNER project organised a High-Level Policy Expert Meeting in October 2021. Letizia Palumbo (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) presented preliminary research findings of the VULNER project regarding THB and moderated the meeting alongside Sabrina Marchetti (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice). Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Civil Court of Rome) gave insights on the discussions leading to Directive 2011/36/EU.
Other participants included Davor Derenčinović (former President of the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against THB), Giulia Garofalo Geymonat (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice), Catríona Graham (European Women’s Lobby), Suzanne Hoff (La Strada International), Giulia Laganà (Open Society Foundations), Francesca Nicodemi (Independent expert, Italian lawyer), Fabrizio Sarrica (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), Sarah Schwarze (German NGO Network against Trafficking in Human Beings), Enrico Somaglia (European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions), Anna Triandafyllidou (Ryerson University, Toronto). Lilana Keith (PICUM) was unable to attend but contributed to the writing of this Policy Brief
Read full policy brief here.