On 15 July 2021, RENATE launched its latest research, entitled ‘Legal Assistance for Victims of Trafficking across Europe with Special reference to six European Countries.’
The launch took place via Zoom, with 130 people attending from Europe and beyond.
The evidence-based research examines the provision of legal assistance to victims of trafficking in Albania, Bulgaria, England and Wales, Germany, Romania and Spain. Covering the three thematic areas of Awareness, Access and Quality, the research provides an understanding of how legal aid works in each of the six countries and explores the challenges to inform and promote advocacy.
The research acknowledges there are varying degrees of continuous efforts to eliminate the issue of Human Trafficking and exploitation amongst the six European countries in the research, concerns are expressed for the little positive results.
Critical findings are that there is an EU dimension to the problem and this in turn, demands an EU collaborative response to make an impact on the issue of Human Trafficking.
Free Legal aid is a precondition for the safety and protection of all victims of trafficking. Linked to this reality is that identification is key to the entitlement of legal aid. In this regard, a key area is the detection of potential victims and associated concerns for how the identification process takes place; what are the criteria and who decides. The vital role played by NGOs in the provision of legal assistance has been confirmed by the positive feedback received in this regard, in contrast to obstacles to accessing free governmental legal assistance such as government policies and formal processes which oftentimes make for protracted waiting times, and ensuing despair and lack of trust. In light of the aforementioned, the research finds it is necessary that NGOs should also be recognised as having in role to play in the identification of victims.
Throughout the six participating countries, it was found that there are inordinately long waiting times for legal aid and possible lengthy travel distances in order to access a provider of legal aid specific to the crims of human trafficking, which pose considerable obstacles to access for already vulnerable people who may not trust the authorities, may not have the language capacities and certainly do not have associated regular supports of friends and family as might be enjoyed by others accessing legal assistance.