EU Watch

New Report Sheds Light on Human Trafficking and Migrant Exploitation in Italy

An expert group is urging Italian authorities to take steps to reduce the vulnerability of irregular migrants to human trafficking.

by Andrea Li

In its 7th general report, the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) sought to evaluate the implementation of the rules of the Convention on the fight against trafficking in human beings relating to labour exploitation in the EU.

Data on the subject can help understand if member states are compliant with the obligations; and provide further information on the victims and how to tackle trafficking in human beings.

Labour exploitation

GRETA is set up pursuant to Article 36 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings to monitor the implementation of the Convention by the Parties. GRETA is composed of 15 members who sit in their individual capacity and are independent and impartial in the exercise of their functions.

In this 7th General Report, GRETA highlights the particular challenges of trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation. Labour exploitation was chosen as one of the thematic focuses because of GRETA’s concern that Convention obligations were not being met, and that many victims of labour trafficking were not being identified as such, nor granted access to assistance and protection.

The judgment is an important contribution to European human rights law in recognising the forms of coercion that underpin trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation. Additionally, GRETA’s findings suggest that many domestic courts fail to fully understand the gravity of labour exploitation or the nexus with human trafficking.

Conditions in Italy

In the report on Italy, GRETA observed that the detection of victims of human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation was particularly complicated due to the significant size of the informal economy in certain sectors and the high numbers of irregular migrants working in them, in particular agriculture, construction, and the textile industry.

Consequently, GRETA urged the Italian authorities to take steps to reduce the vulnerability of irregular migrants to trafficking in human beings and invited Italian authorities to provide further research on the implications of the immigration legislation for the identification and protection of victims of trafficking, and the prosecution of offenders.

GRETA also suggests to establish or strengthen effective policies and programmes to prevent the trafficking of human beings, in particular for persons most vulnerable to trafficking. Vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking is determined by a combination of factors, many of which are structural and are linked to economic, labour and immigration policies.

In Italy, Law No. 199 of 29 October 2016 “Provisions to counter the phenomena of undeclared employment, exploitative labour in agriculture and the realignment of wages in the agricultural sector” amended Article 603-bis of the Criminal Code, making it punishable by between one and six years’ imprisonment (or up to eight years’ imprisonment if a worker is subjected to violence or threats) and a fine from 500 to 1000 euros in relation to each worker concerned.

It also introduced administrative responsibility of legal entities and compulsory forfeiture of money, goods and profits. It is possible for workers who are victims of offences under this law to apply for and obtain a payment from the State anti-trafficking fund.

For the full report see here.

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