As you know, this report is focusing on the identification of special needs of victims of trafficking who are seeking asylum and how these needs are taken into account with regard to asylum procedures and reception conditions. Therefore, it is very important that victims of trafficking, although they are seeking asylum, can be formally identified as such and benefit from adequate support. In that respect, rather good practices have been identified in the UK (see section Focus on Good Practices). Complementary mechanisms in place provide the possibility for the identification and asylum procedures to be conducted simultaneously without harming the right of victims of trafficking to be formally identified, and possibly recognised as such, and to apply for and benefit from international protection.
On procedural safeguards for trafficked victims in asylum procedures in particular, examples of good practices have been provided mainly from France where the determination office, the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA), has increasingly taken into account applicants with special needs, particularly victims of trafficking, and is working closely with civil society organisations that support trafficked victims seeking asylum. In addition, not only it is crucial that victims of trafficking can benefit from procedural safeguards, for instance as regards the conditions of the interview or the overall duration of the procedure, but it is also fundamental that their special reception needs are identified and met. Indeed, this contributes both to their physical and mental rehabilitation and to build trust between them and support professionals. Building trust in particular has been identified as central for the victims to be able to tell their real story, thus increasing their chance to be granted international protection. In that perspective, reception systems designed in Italy and in Spain have been well thought-out. As a matter of fact, victims of trafficking who are seeking asylum are supposed to be accommodated in housing designed for victims of trafficking or asylum seekers with special needs and to receive tailored care and support meeting their specific needs. In practice, lack of available places has been reported in particular in Italy.
Although it was expected, the research has unfortunately confirmed and revealed many challenges. Much work remains to be done to ensure that specific needs of trafficked victims are effectively identified and taken on board in the asylum process. Amongst the main challenges, is the uneven or lack of transposition of the relevant European Directives, i.e the Reception Conditions Directive, the Asylum Procedures Directive and the Anti-Trafficking Directive which also apply to the asylum context. This makes it therefore particularly difficult to define and apply common standards throughout Europe. A very interesting case-law from the Swiss Federal Administrative Court demonstrates that overarching treaties such as the European Convention on Action against THB can also be called upon before the Courts and actually force States to recognize their positive obligation to identify and protect victims of trafficking, including when they are seeking international protection. In that ruling of July 2016, the Court asserts that States have a positive obligation to take action to detect victims of trafficking, which can be derived from Article 4 ECHR and Article 10 CoE Convention, and that such obligation concerns every public authority that may have contact with victims including asylum authorities.
Another main challenge is the obvious lack of procedural safeguards applied to presumed victims of trafficking in the asylum procedures, including the Dublin procedure. In all countries studied, identification and reporting of victims of trafficking under the Dublin Regulation essentially rely on legal and social support organisations and/or self-reporting of victims themselves without precluding the Dublin procedure to be carried out. Indeed, in practice, being identified as a victim of trafficking does not have, or only rarely had, an impact on the Dublin procedure and in France, Ireland, Italy, Spainand Switzerland, victims of trafficking are regularly processed under the Dublin Regulation even if they may be re-trafficked in this country.
Numerous challenges have also been reported with regard to the provision of reception conditions. One in particular that must not be underestimated is the immense lack of psychological support while it has been reported by most survivors of trafficking interviewed for this research as a central need. Such support, if provided adequately and early enough can have major impacts on the outcome of the protection granted to the victim – because they would have been able to deliver their story and to be strong enough to totally leave the influence of the trafficker – as well as on the rehabilitation process and the capacity of the person to start a new phase of their life.
The 10 recommendations we have formulated with the project partners are not only based on the findings of the report but also take into consideration suggestions shared by national practitioners. Amongst recurring recommendations is for States to provide systematic and regular training as well as capacity-building and support activities to all relevant practitioners in the asylum system in order to improve the early identification of victims of trafficking seeking international protection as well as the identification of their special needs. In particular, sufficient funding and resources, including staff resources, should be made available by the EU and Member States.
In addition, we call on States to ensure sustainable, transparent and regular cooperation between relevant stakeholders, including amongst others, state representatives at national and local levels, asylum authorities, asylum service providers and organisations providing support to victims of trafficking and/or asylum seekers, in order to improve the support that should be provided to trafficked victims in the asylum system and meet their special needs. In practice, clear and formal rules and mechanisms should be defined and set up to make such cooperation more effective.
Maybe another recommendation I could mention is the obligation for States to fully respect the right of victims of trafficking to be granted international protection, in cases where there are relevant nexus to one of the Geneva Convention grounds, in particular the membership to a particular social group. All States should therefore acknowledge that trafficking by itself may be a ground for asylum on its own, and thus they should develop processes for authorities to grant asylum on this ground. So far, amongst countries studied, only France, Ireland and the UK have dedicated case-law on granting international protection to victims of trafficking as a member of a particular social group.
Once the consolidated report is released I invite you to read the full list of recommendations as they form a coherent package for improving public policies and practices on the identification and responses to special needs of trafficked asylum seekers.