Memorandum of Concern
Trafficking of Migrant Women for Forced Prostitution into Greece
Despite widespread acknowledgment that trafficking of human beings for the purpose of forced prostitution has escalated dramatically in recent years, the government of Greece has failed to address this problem. Greece has failed to take action to prevent trafficking, to protect the victims of trafficking, and to prosecute the traffickers. Moreover, efforts to identify and prosecute law enforcement and other officials complicit in trafficking are inadequate.
Human Rights Watch's conclusions are based on research conducted in Greece in November 2000 and on extensive follow-up research conducted during the following months. We interviewed government officials, police authorities, representatives from intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and prison authorities; and gathered information on trafficking victims. In the aftermath of the research, we also forwarded to the Greek government a detailed critique of proposed immigration legislation that, in our view, failed to address adequately concerns regarding the trafficking of migrant women for forced prostitution into Greece. (3)
As a result of this research and advocacy, our specific concerns regarding the trafficking of women into Greece for forced prostitution include:
· the absence of comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation;
· few prosecutions for trafficking under existing criminal laws;
· the lack of witness protection programs for trafficking victims to facilitate their participation in prosecutions;
· the absence of government-sponsored services for all trafficked women, including shelter, medical care, psychological support, and assistance with other basic needs;
· the on-going detention and deportation of trafficking victims;
· the complicity of police officers in the trafficking of women.
Categorizing trafficking as "one of the worst forms of abuse that migrant women suffer," the International Organization for Migration (IOM) believes that hundreds of thousands of women are caught up in global trafficking networks. (4)
The essential elements of the crime of trafficking are the recruitment and/or transport of persons using deception, coercion or fraud for the purpose of exploiting a person's labor. (5)
Trafficking of women into Western Europe for the purpose of forced prostitution and other forms of forced labor has been on the rise since the early 1990s. The European Commission estimates that 120,000 women and children are trafficked into Western Europe each year. (6)
In recent years, anti-trafficking initiatives have moved from the margins to the core of the legislative programs and action plans of international and regional intergovernmental bodies, including the United Nations (U.N.), European Union (E.U.), Council of Europe (COE), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and many international nongovernmental organizations. (7)
In December 2000, over 120 nations signed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; eighty-six nations have also signed the convention's Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. (8)
Greece signed both the convention and the trafficking protocol, but has not yet ratified either.
Trafficking must be addressed as a human rights violation. Trafficking for forced prostitution and other forms of forced labor involves the illegal and often highly profitable transport and sale of human beings for the purpose of exploiting their labor. The networks that engagein the trafficking of migrant women for forced prostitution arrange for women's travel and job placement, and use deception, fraud, and coercion to place them into highly abusive conditions of employment, where they are forced to pay off outrageously high "debts" before they can receive wages or gain their freedom. While in debt, women face a range of abuses from not being paid for work completed and working excessively long hours to constant surveillance and slavery-like conditions. In more extreme cases, women are held in a situation of forced labor or in debt bondage and are sold and re-sold from brothel owner to brothel owner without any hope of ever escaping or paying off their "debt." (9)Many trafficked women also suffer beatings, rape, psychological coercion, and serious health problems from sexually transmitted diseases. Failure to obey traffickers and employers can lead to fines, physical violence, and even death. Escape from these conditions is difficult and dangerous, and may lead to retaliation against a woman or her family members by operatives in the trafficking network.
All governments have an obligation to combat trafficking and other violations associated with this human rights abuse, including labor rights violations, rape, assault, debt bondage, and deprivation of liberty. Governments that acquiesce in or routinely fail to take action against trafficking, effectively--through their inaction--are complicit in it. With respect to trafficking specifically for forced prostitution, governments both in countries of origin and in countries into which women are trafficked, need to be alert to the problem and take effective measures to halt and prevent it. In particular, among other steps, they should invest in information campaigns that educate migrant women about their labor rights and warn them about trafficking abuses, and they should establish telephone hotlines with skilled staff to assist victims of trafficking. Governments should take all possible steps to identify, investigate, and punish rights abuses perpetrated by traffickers and to compensate trafficking victims Moreover, both in countries of origin and destination, governments should take measures to halt police corruption and complicity in trafficking abuses by their own agents.
Governments should also address the precarious legal and social position of trafficked persons, with concrete measures to protect victims' rights. Measures should be adopted to afford trafficked persons the opportunity to cooperate effectively and safely with law enforcement officials. Such measures include stays of deportation; exempting trafficked persons from detention and prosecution for offenses directly relating to their trafficking; giving them real opportunities to seek justice and compensation for abuses they have suffered; ensuring their access to shelter, medical care, and other services; guaranteeing their personal safety and the safety of their family members; facilitating their safe and humane repatriation; and offering alternatives if such repatriation is not possible, including third country resettlement. (10)
In response to the upsurge in the trafficking of human beings, however, most West European governments have taken a narrow "crime control" approach to this phenomenon. The emphasis has been placed on enhanced border control; measures to combat organized criminal networks of traffickers; and detection, apprehension, and deportation of trafficked migrants. Ignoring the link between increasingly restrictive immigration and asylum policies in Western Europe and the boom in trafficking, many governments fail to address trafficking as a human rights and refugee protection issue. Yet, some argue that anti-immigration policies generated by West European governments are themselves an important contributing factor in the rise in trafficking in the region. (11)
According to the IOM, "another way to combat this deadly and abusive traffic [of women for forced prostitution] would be for governments to consider the creation of more legal opportunities so that women are not compelled to resort to dubious job offers in order to find ways to support their families." (12)
3. See Human Rights Watch, "Comments on Greek Immigration Bill: HRW Letter to Greek Members of Parliament," February 1, 2001, at http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/02/Greece0202.htm (May 22, 2001).
4. IOM News Release, "IOM Calls for Tougher Sanctions against Those Who Profit from Trafficking in Women," No. 850, March 8, 2001. According to IOM, international migration is becoming "increasingly feminized," with women making up almost 50 percent of the estimated 150 million international migrants worldwide. Persons trafficked for forced prostitution and other forms of forced labor comprise a significant number of women migrants. See IOM, World Migration Report 2000, November 2000.
5. The terms "trafficking" and "smuggling" are used interchangeably by many governments and the media. They represent two distinct phenomena, however. According to the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime's protocol, trafficking in persons means:
[T]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purposes of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Annex II: Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, A/55/383, adopted by the General Assembly on November 2, 2000, article 3.
Smuggling is defined as "the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident," Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, A/55/383, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on November 2, 2000, Article 3. The smuggling protocol has been signed by eighty-one countries.
6. European Commission, Trafficking in Women, The Misery Behind the Fantasy: From Poverty to Sex Slavery:A Comprehensive European Strategy, March 8, 2001, at http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/news/8mars_en.htm#a1 (May 22, 2001). The clandestine nature of trafficking makes it difficult to estimate accurately the numbers of trafficked persons in any region. Moreover, few countries keep statistics on cases of trafficked persons.
7. See, for example, United Nations Commission on Human Rights (Fifty-Sixth Session), Report of the Secretary General on Activities of United Nations Bodies and Other International Organizations Pertaining to the Problem of Trafficking in Women and Girls, E/CN.4/2000/66, January 20, 2000; Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, on Trafficking in Women, Women's Migration and Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/2000/68, February 29, 2000; Commission on Human Rights Resolution, "Traffic in Women and Girls," E/CN.4/RES/2000/44, April 20, 2000. At the E.U. level, the most significant development is a European Commission proposal for a European Council decision on combating trafficking. See Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, COM (2000) 854 [2001/0024 (CNS)], December 21, 2000. See also, Human Rights Watch, "Recommendations Regarding the Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings," March 2001, Appendix I. The Council of Europe set out anti-trafficking measures in a May 2000 recommendation to its forty-one member states. See Council of Europe, Recommendation No. R (2000) 11 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation, May 19, 2000, at http://cm.coe.int/ta/rec/2000/2000r11.htm as of May 22, 2001. As an immediate follow-up, the COE organized a seminar in Athens in June 2000 to develop a regional anti-trafficking action plan for South-East Europe. See also OSCE, Decision No.1: Enhancing the OSCE's Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, MC(8) Journal No. 2, adopted by the Ministerial Council on November 28, 2000. See also OSCE, Trafficking in Human Beings: Implications for the OSCE (OSCE Review Conference, September 1999), Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Background Paper 1999/3.
8. United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, A/55/383, adopted by the General Assembly on November 2, 2000 and Annex II: Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, A/55/383, adopted by the General Assembly on November 2, 2000. The convention and protocols will come into force when forty states ratify them. One state, Monaco, has ratified the convention and protocols. The convention and protocols are open for signature until December 12, 2002.
The International Labour Organization classifies trafficking of women for forced prostitution as "forced
labour." ILO, Stopping Forced Labour: The Elimination of all Forms of Forced or Compulsory Labour, June 2001,
para. 29. Forced labour is defined as "all work or service which is extracted from any person under the menace of
any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily." ILO, Forced Labour Convention
(No. 29), 1930, Article 2. Anti-Slavery International, a London-based nongovernmental organization, classifies
trafficking of women for forced prostitution as a form of "modern day slavery." According to ASI, forms of modern
slavery include forced labor and debt bondage. Forced labor involves "the promise of a good job tricking workers
into accepting employment in locations instead where they find themselves enslaved." Debt bondage occurs when "a
human being becomes collateral against a loan" but "the duration of the work is not clear and the original debt is
rarely paid off." See Anti-Slavery International, "Frequently Asked Questions," at
http://www.iabolish.com/faq.htm, June 11, 2001.
See Human Rights Watch, Owed Justice: Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan, September
2000, p. 2. 11.
See John Morrison, The Trafficking and Smuggling of Refugees: The End Game in European Asylum
Policy?, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), July 2000. 12.
IOM News Release, "IOM Calls for Tougher Sanctions against Those Who Profit from Trafficking in
Women," March 8, 2001.
10. See Human Rights Watch, Owed Justice: Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan, September 2000, p. 2.
11. See John Morrison, The Trafficking and Smuggling of Refugees: The End Game in European Asylum Policy?, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), July 2000.
12. IOM News Release, "IOM Calls for Tougher Sanctions against Those Who Profit from Trafficking in Women," March 8, 2001.
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