Human trafficking in Europe, a compendium of information

Corina-Ioana Chambre
Corina-Ioana Chambre

The last thirty years have come as a bridge of development for profitable criminal activities, one of the most frequent and dangerous ones being human trafficking. This type of crime has become a major problem, nationally as well as internationally, with an implication of a vast number of people, with major ramifications on a social and economic level that disrupt various people and states.

The concept of trafficking, in the context of human trafficking, has been used since the XIX century, starting with the campaign against prostitution, known as ’’the white slave trade’’. This concept firstly emerged with the feminist campaign that set to abolish the Acts regarding contagious diseases between the years 1864-1869 in Great Britain. The feminist French activist, Josephine Butler, run the campaign against the brothel regulations claiming that prostitution should be eradicated, as the legislation must punish in a more severe way the individuals that benefit from it, such as the buyers, the pimps and the states, and not the woman that has been the subject of prostitution. The notion ‘’white slave trade’’[1] during the campaign was regarded in relation to the kidnaping and transportation of young white females for prostitution. From a legislative point of view, the concept came forward during the Paris Convention of 1902, where the International Agreement for the suppression of the ‘’White Slave Traffic’’ was initially elaborated, later being enacted by 13 states in 1904[2].

Despite all of these, the notion was limited to the fight against the trade of innocent women used for sexual exploitation. Considering the specific period, prostitution involved an increasing number of immigrants of colour and as a result, it was proposed a different noun- ‘’women and children traffic’’, in order to fix the confusion, endorsed during the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children[3] in 1921.

Concerning the Romanian state, this specific crime continued to evolve in accordance with the social changes that occurred over the years, the traffickers creating methods of adaptation to the transitory situation that the Romanian society imposes.

By the criteria of income, human trafficking is one of the most profitable crimes, situated on the third place in the world[4], overtaken only by the trafficking of drugs and weapons. On an humanitarian level, human trafficking has consequences of the greatest matter, so much as the affirmation:‘’ behind every number, there is a life, a soul, a destiny, and what is over zero is already too much’’ [5]becomes important in the context in which the actions of the modern societies seek to specialise the resources- politics, social actions, well-trained professionals etc. in order to respond to all forms of organised crime, especially human trafficking. The response pursues a relentless, intelligent and adapted reply, capable to reduce as much as possible the number of victims, to diminish and control the risks and vulnerabilities, and severely punish the largest possible number of traffickers.

The exploit of human trafficking victims takes place on the market that demands mostly sexual services[6], in this case the market being heavily influenced by the rules and politics regarding prostitution and government bodies that tolerate it. Grosso modo, the goal of the traffickers is to obtain a sum of money or other facilities from the exploit of victims for a long period of time. They aim to protect their investments which means they will take every precaution in order for the victim to ‘’work’’ without trying to escape, assuring a permanent control over the innocents.

Subsequently, due to the rising number of human trafficking victims, on an international level, groups constituted in order to traffic humans, especially women and children, from under-developed areas of the world, or coming from states still under the shadow of the communist regime arise rapidly[7]. Furthermore, Romania is a known rendezvous point for departures, as a country of origin for the victims that are later transported to countries as Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Japan etc. Moreover, innocents are brought sometimes to Romania, the state becoming in certain cases a country of destination.

Taking into account that the exploit of victims is often encountered in the form of sexual exploitation, with a percentage of over 70%[8], in most of the cases, the victims are recruited under the basis of certain techniques of constraint and deception, leaving from the countries with a lessening degree of development. Considering that the crime involves a high number of justice actors, the indictment of it exists in other legislations, and as a result the summon of the principle of law ”nullum crimen sine lege” isn’t applicable in this context, even if the criminals tend to wish it can be suitable for them. In order to demonstrate the method in which this crime is perceived in different societies, developed and under-developed countries, we find it necessary to observe how the states relate to this specific crime in order to paint an accurate picture.

A country with a high level of trafficked victims, women and children, is The Republic of Moldova. These victims are sold in communities such as France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and as well as the Middle East(United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Israel, Afghanistan). In terms of male victims, the Moldavians are sold in Russia, the neighbouring states, being forced to labour, and most commonly, begging. More so, Moldova is also a country of transit when the victims come from Ukraine in order to be sold in Romania.

Even though the govern of the Republic of Moldova acknowledge the gravity and the importance of the suppression if this crime, especially as the country is of critical concern to the criminal world, it fails to implement harsh regulations in order to reduce the number of victims sold from and to Moldova. Nevertheless, human trafficking is prohibited in the Republic of Moldova and is incriminated in articles of the criminal code of Moldova, the sanction coming up to 25 years of imprisonment or life-long prison when the victims are minors.

Still, the Moldavian authorities cooperate with other states[9], with international organisations that deal with the fight against the crime, trying to work out solutions in order to limit the access to methods of trafficking that are commonly used in the Republic of Moldova. In any case, the government remains inefficient in adequate protection of the victims, most of the times treating them as criminals and offering little to none residence status, access to justice, shelter medical services and physiological services. The victims can obtain work during the trial, but the working opportunities are few and most of the times the lack of support force the victims to refuse collaboration.

In contrast to Romania, Italy is viewed as a country of destination and sometimes, a transit state for the Romanian victims, Russians, Moldavians, Albanians. The Albanian networks of pimping hold supremacy in street prostitution, in cooperation with the Italian mafia[10]. The govern complies with the minimum standards, giving protection to victims through offering work and temporary residence permits, while also guaranteeing the access to justice and medical care facilities.

The Italian government imposed the anti-traffic criminal legislation[11], coordinating operations with other states in order to prevent this specific crime, concentrating all the efforts in the interest of preventing the criminal activity with the source states, such as Romania, Ukraine, Albania, and Nigeria. A fortiori, the border crossing point have been strengthened and the conditions of visa granting have become more severe. The criminal activity on the rise has determined the need to implement a secure telephone line in order to give the victims the chance to talk and be informed about the gravity of the crime. A large number of suspects of human trafficking are sent every year to court by the Italian authorities, materializing the urgency of new and harsh regulations for this particular crime.

Furthermore, the great number of people that have been subjected to human trafficking is on the rise, and as a result, international organisations such as Interpol[12] have been involved in the politics of fighting and prevention of the crimes with a high degree of danger. The organisations is in tight connections with the state leaders that undergo difficulties in fighting traffic, not limiting the certain type of traffic at hand, but more as a general crime. The group recorded a number of successes from saving the trafficked victims forced to unlawful labour, to victim of human trafficking that were sold for organ harvesting of the innocents that were sexually exploited for money.[13]

As a response to this, Interpol is trying to prevent the commitment of these type of crimes through an open implication of the members of the organisation in relation to potential victims, most commonly children originally from under-developed states. The purpose is to bring forward to the population the risks of these crimes and the probable outcomes, sometimes fatal, that the trafficked individuals endure every day.

Due to this high number of victims coming from disadvantaged countries, considerate implications can be seen from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)[14], an organisation that deals with the protection of the refugees that fled violence, persecution, and war from native homelands. Most of the times, these people are unable to seek help from the authorities in order to be saved from situations of exploitation. The efforts conducted require most of the times a multilateral approach, coordination between agents and state authorities and a high degree of implication from the workers and volunteers of institutions. On an international level, at the foundation of the fight against trafficking lies art. 3 from the ‘’Protocol of prevention, suppression and punishment of human trafficking’’[15], established by the United Nations Organisation in 2000, as a way of helping the cause in order to rescue persecuted people that have been exploited.

Despite of all these efforts, the number of victims and traffickers is on the rise, and as a result, the fight against human trafficking becomes arduous and strenuous. We firmly believe that the national authorities need to implicate themselves more in order to fight the crime from its source. As Europe is an outbreak of criminality, the urgency of good organisation and a better knowledge of the risks becomes elemental to the reduction and the fight against the rise of the number of victims.


In the context of an alarming rise in the number of victims, of age and underage, the indication of the presence of this crime and the prevention of it becomes crucial to a well-functioning society. In concreto, the means of sanctioning laid out by the criminal codex pursue to reduce the number of cases thorough enforcement of harsh sanctions, sanctions that instil fear for the criminal activities they might conduct. However, most of the times, the sanctions are disregarded by the criminals due to their own convictions and need of a luxurious lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the only real outcome we have is the detrimental statistic of the rise in human trafficking[16]. There have been brought to attention of the states the measures in order to prevent and protect the victims. Victims tend to be more emotionally impacted than the traffickers are, as the innocents are the ones that suffer most, physically and psychologically, and as a result, there comes a demand for the states to endure means of protection. There have been developed programmes for victims, psychological care from professionals and even means for the victims to be entitled to moral damages for their use in the criminal activity. Listing the victims in specialised programmes in order to improve their social abilities and to return them to the society. Assistance by the authorities can be seen in non-government organisations that have the purpose to help the victims of human trafficking and exploitation in seeking a normal development and re-entry into the communities. More so, we firmly believe that an important aspect in order to prevent the number of victims covers the information about the different methods that are used by the traffickers. In the eventuality that the people that are of interest to the traffickers know about the means used by the criminals, this facilitates the prevention of the inclusion in the criminal chain.

[1] Available here
[2] Available here
[3] Available here
[4] Available here
[5] Sorin Fildan, Speranța Milancovici , ,,Perspective multidisciplinare asupra prevenirii și combaterii traficului de persoane”, editura Cordial Lex, Cluj-Napoca 2012, p. 7
[6] Available here
[7] Available here
[8] Sistemul Integrat de Evidență a Victimelor, baza de date în care sunt implementate informațiile transmise de către IGPR, IGPF, ANITP, ONG
[9] Gheorghiță Mateuț ș.a., ”Traficul de ființe umane. Infractor. Victimă. Infracțiune.”, Editura Asociația Magistraților, Iași 2005, p. 250.
[10] Gheorghiță Mateuț ș.a., „Traficul de ființe umane. Infractor. Victimă. Infracțiune.”, Editura Asociația Magistraților, Iași 2005, p. 181
[11] Available here
[12] Available here
[13] Available here
[14] Available here
[15] Available here
[16] Available here

Probation officer Corina-Ioana Chambre, Timiș Probation Service

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