Western Europe: Key Recommendations

By: Lucy Mahaffey

In the following post, undergraduate student Lucy Mahaffey from University of Oklahoma examines comparative data about the anti-trafficking practices of both Greece and Norway and offers recommendations for other countries looking to improve their anti-slavery policies.

Western Europe is often looked to for ideal infrastructure and government. In instances of human trafficking, it has led the abolitionist movement with the United States. However, there is a gap between what has been theorized and what is being practiced. According to its membership in the United Nations and the European Union, as well as its income level, Norway could be more effective, but it is by far one of the all-around best European counties when it comes to anti-trafficking practices. Greece is sluggish and still appears to be in new territory by comparison. The challenge facing Greece today is to bring its prevention, intervention, and prosecution forward to compare more favorably with its EU neighbors. This could be done by strengthening local and national education programs, seeking swifter ways to intervene when cases occur, and following through with stronger and more effective prosecution and reformative incarceration of traffickers. In short, funding is needed for law enforcement and lawyer training as well as emphasizing incarceration as “an arena of developing responsibility” (James) instead of solely for punishment. Through these actions, with emphasis on mitigating corruption and discrimination, true and unbiased justice in Greece would prevail.

 

Prosecutions and Convictions – Norway and Greece

Overall, in Greece there was a general lack of prosecution in human trafficking cases and a “new territory” feel to procedure. Although they are making progress, there is a large gap between Greek actions and those of countries from the rest of Western Europe. According to the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP Report), Greek police investigated 37 human trafficking cases in 2013 (46 cases in 2012; 11 investigations were for forced begging or labor.) NGOs reported in four cases, with sentences ranging from 15 to 22 years’ imprisonment and fines the equivalent of approximately $14,000 to $70,000. Concerning Greek actions in 2013, the TIP Report also states that “the government prosecuted 142 defendants on suspicion of committing trafficking-related crimes” (“Greece” TIP Report), but this was less than the 177 from 2012 (as well as the 220 in 2011.) Out of 177 defendants, there were 26 who fell into the labor trafficking category whereas 23 were categorized for labor and sexual exploitation. There was not full data available for the TIP Report from “approximately half of the courts in Greece” (“Greece” TIP Report).

Year 2012 2013
Greek Trafficking CASES/CONVICTIONS 27/177 46/142
Greek Conviction Rate 15% 32%

One aspect that the TIP fails to look at is the conviction rate. It is not difficult to discern from the data and is important to consider for progress of efforts over time. In 2013, for instance, the government convicted 46 traffickers and acquitted 16 (32% conviction rate with 46 of 142 defendants), compared with 27 convictions and 16 acquittals (or a 15% conviction rate) in 2012 (“Greece” TIP Report). This shows a good improvement; however, each judge has a varying degree of knowledge of trafficking and, thus, largely lacked consideration of victims. It also seems that prosecution was not consistent. Also, lawyers for traffickers (or suspects) often portrayed their clients as pimps, rather than traffickers, with the hopes of a less harsh punishment of five years’ imprisonment or to avoid prison by paying fines. For Greece, there was no data available to breakdown defendants into either sex or labor trafficking.

Norway, on the other hand, has a great infrastructure for combating trafficking, but their conviction rate over the last few years shows that there has not been enough allocated to effectively combat trafficking (“Norway” TIP Report).

Norwegian authorities initiated 69 investigations in 2013. Thirty of these were for sex trafficking and thirty-nine were for labor trafficking. The government prosecuted six sex trafficking suspects (20% cr) and three labor trafficking suspects (13% cr) in 2013 (compared with two suspects (8% cr) and six suspects (28%) in 2012.) Authorities convicted three sex trafficking offenders and two labor trafficking offenders in 2013, compared with three sex trafficking offenders and four labor trafficking offenders convicted in 2012. These are interesting findings, indicating that perhaps there is a finite amount of resources, which are simply reallocated to whichever type of cases (sex or labor) that were lacking the previous year. The Norwegian government needs to allocate more time and energy into trafficking cases.

Year 2012 2013
Sex Trafficking CASES/CONVICTIONS 6/30 2/26
Norway ST Conviction Rate 20% 8%
Labor Trafficking CASES/CONVICTIONS 3/39 6/22
Norway LT Conviction Rate 8% 28%

A Final Word

Norway is by no means perfect in its efforts to combat trafficking, and Greece should not be vilified. Europe and global stakeholders may use the lessons these two countries provide to improve standards, enhance understanding, and encourage collective effort in combating trafficking. The topics touched upon, such as funding, education, and swifter intervention, are much needed. They are, however, only a starting point. Slavery today has widely been acknowledged as a global atrocity by governments, religious leaders, and businesses alike. It is crucial, however, to delve deeper into the subject matter to carry the global perspective beyond mere acknowledgement and to truly question the norms of today. Why is there any trafficking in Norway, a country with a GDP exceeding three-fourths of the world’s countries? Is Greece to blame for its sluggish anti-trafficking actions, or is this a result of external pressure from economic policy and internal government turmoil? The world must ask these far-reaching questions, refusing to simply accept a prosecution as the final answer to trafficking and remembering to examine the “best practice” countries and regions without idolizing them. Through this perspective, future studies on trafficking today may build a more thorough picture of serviceable policy and create the lasting change we all desire.

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Works Cited

“Greece.” Trafficking in Persons Report 2014. US Department of State, 2014. 188-9. Web.

James, Erwin. “Norwegian Prison Inmates Treated Like People.The Guardian 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

“Norway.” Trafficking in Persons Report 2014. US Department of State, 2014. 299-300. Web.

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