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2022 Assembly

 

Council of Europe Action against Trafficking in Human Beings : 29th Meeting

 

On December 17th the Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings met and published the reports following recent inspections of Malta and the UK.

Both of these countries have important links with Renate members and the summary reports lay out the highlights of the measures identified, and recommendations published by GRETA. A summary of points from the meeting are laid out below and there is a particular and important connection between the GRETA report and the recent research work that RENATE NETWORK conducted and published in 2021.

MALTA
Welcoming the measures taken and progress achieved by the Maltese authorities in implementing the Convention, and in particular:
the further development of the legislative framework, including increasing the minimum penalty for trafficking in human beings, excluding companies involved in human trafficking from public procurement procedures, and strengthening the protection and assistance of victims of crimes; 2 CP/Rec(2021)06
the adoption of a new National Action Plan on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, covering the period 2020-2023; – the increase in the funding for victim assistance and the setting up of a safe house for victims of human trafficking.
the awareness-raising and training activities undertaken to prevent and combat child trafficking.
the efforts made to combat trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, through increased capacity and training of labour inspectors.
the decision to waive residence and work permit application fees for victims of trafficking.
the participation in international co-operation in the area of combating human trafficking, including by means of Joint Investigation Teams.

Recommendations

  • Ensure the provision of information to presumed victims of human trafficking in asylum reception centres and immigration detention centres, including by developing and disseminating information materials on the rights of victims of trafficking, the services and assistance measures available and how to access them, and ensuring access to interpretation (paragraph 46);
  • Make efforts to guarantee effective access to compensation for victims of human trafficking, in line with Article 15 (4) of the Convention.
  • Introduce as an aggravating circumstance the offence of trafficking in human beings committed against a child, regardless of the means used (paragraph 88);
  • Take measures to strengthen the criminal justice response to human trafficking and ensure that human trafficking cases lead to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
  • Take additional steps to ensure that victims and witnesses of human trafficking are provided with effective and appropriate protection from potential retaliation or intimidation.
  • Review the Criminal Code with a view to ensuring that all child victims of human trafficking, including children older than 16, are afforded special protection measures (paragraph 140).
  • Respect the principle of non-refoulement of victims of trafficking (paragraph 174).
  • Take additional steps to proactively identify victims of trafficking, including by screening asylum seekers, in particular all unaccompanied children, for indicators of human trafficking upon or swiftly after their arrival in Malta, and enabling specialised NGOs to have regular access to facilities for asylum seekers and detained migrants in order to proactively identify victims of trafficking. This involves providing information on the rights of victims of trafficking, the services and assistance measures available and how to access them (paragraph 175).
    (https://rm.coe.int/recommendation-on-the-implementation-of-the-council-of-europe-conventi/1680a4e8ce)

    UNITED KINGDOM
    Welcoming the measures taken and progress achieved by the UK authorities in implementing the Convention, and in particular:

  • the independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the UK Government’s commitment to implementing the majority of the review’s recommendations.
  • the efforts to establish specialised anti-trafficking bodies and to provide training and guidance to relevant professionals.
  • the reforms of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) intended to improve victim identification and support, including the setting up of a Single Competent Authority and independent multiagency panels of experts to review negative identification decisions.
  • the increased support for confirmed victims in England and Wales from 45 days to a minimum of 90 days through the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract.
  • the steps taken to prevent and eradicate human trafficking from businesses and supply chains, including in the public sector; – the action taken to prevent and combat trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, including through the increased capacity and budget of the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
  • the active participation in multilateral and bilateral international co-operation in the fight against trafficking in human beings, including the setting up Joint Investigation Teams with a number of countries.

Recommendations

1. Take further steps to facilitate and guarantee access to justice for victims of human trafficking, in particular by ensuring that:

  • victims, and in particular children, receive legal assistance during the identification process and are properly informed of their rights and options before entering the NRM.
    access to free legal aid is ensured across the UK and is granted in a timely manner.
  • the assistance of a lawyer is ensured for state compensation proceedings, by making the Exceptional Case Funding scheme accessible in practice to victims seeking compensation before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

2. Make additional efforts to guarantee effective access to compensation for victims of human trafficking, in particular by:

  • enabling all victims of trafficking, including undocumented migrants, to exercise their right to compensation, and carrying out a review of the “illegality defence”, aimed at enabling victims of trafficking who are irregular migrants to seek unpaid salaries before employments tribunal.
  • ensuring that the Family Worker Exemption and the “live in domestic workers exemption” do not prevent domestic workers who are victims of trafficking from accessing compensation.
  • ensuring that victims of labour exploitation have accessible remedies for obtaining more than two years owed in National Minimum Wage.
  • making full use of the legislation on the freezing and forfeiture of assets and international co-operation to secure compensation to victims of human trafficking.

Additional Recommendations can be found on the Council of Europe website:
(https://rm.coe.int/recommendation-on-the-implementation-of-the-council-of-europe-conventi/1680a4e8d0)