Identification of Victims of THB in International Protection and Forced Return Procedures in Belgium and the EU (EMN)

This focussed study examines the mechanisms for detection, identification and referral of (potential) victims of trafficking in human beings in international protection (including Dublin) and forced return procedures.

Background information

The aim of this study is to examine whether and how (potential) victims of trafficking in human beings (THB) are detected and identified in Member States procedures for international protection and in forced return procedures if they have received a (final) negative decision on their application(s) for protection or have abandoned the procedure. In addition, it explores whether and how the detection and identification of (potential) victims of THB results in the referral to other procedures (e.g. as foreseen under Directive 2004/81/EC or procedures for other types of protection) and the extent to which this referral between procedures is organised and coordinated.

Belgian study

The Belgian study presents the specific residence permit procedure for victims of THB (as enshrined in Articles 61/2 to 61/5 of the Immigration Law) and the national referral mechanism (detailed in the Circular of 26 September 2008 on implementing multidisciplinary co-operation in respect of victims of THB and/or certain aggravated forms of smuggling of migrants).

It further examines whether and how (potential) victims of THB are detected in international protection/Dublin/forced return procedures, identifying some tools (interviews, brochures, administrative reports, identification sheets etc.) and specific guidelines (produced by centres for observation and orientation for unaccompanied foreign minors) used for this purpose but also several obstacles encountered (time constraints, premises, etc.).

The study stresses the key role played by other actors, especially social workers who are considered both in reception centers for asylum seekers and in closed centers for rejected applicants as key actors for the detection of (potential) victims of THB. It also underlines the central role played by specialized reception centres in Belgium and deplores their lack of structural and permanent funding support enabling them to fulfill their missions.

Finally the Belgian study presents recent training workshops and information tools developed with a view to help detect and refer (potential) victims of THB in Belgium, recognizing that training needs are still important. It  also concludes that statistical information, research and analysis are needed in this field.

EU Synthesis Report

The synthesis report is based on contributions from EMN National Contact Points in 23 Member States and Norway. The EMN Inform summarises the findings from the study.

Some key points:

  • EU legislation provides a holistic framework for the improved identification and protection of victims.
  • Around half of all MS have some data on victims detected when in international protection procedures, but the data sources are inconsistent and incomplete making it difficult to give a comprehensive picture of the scope of the problem at EU level.There is evidence of victims going unidentified and this may mean they are not granted the protection and/or assistance available to them under EU law
  • In view of this, proactive methods of detection in MS can be considered good practice and a number of MS implement such methods as screening of all applicants for international protection, training of case workers, and provision of information to facilitate self-reporting
  • Many MS logically place greater emphasis on detection in international protection procedures than in forced return procedures, in order to detect victims at the earliest stage possible. However, recognising that the authorities competent to enforce return may also come into contact with victims, most MS also provide these actors with relevant training on identification and detection.
  • All MS offer the possibility to refer identified victims onto service providers for support and some offer a choice of protection possibilities.
  • This study shows some pockets of good practice and evidence of ongoing improvements to national systems

Overall, this study has shown that many (Member) States have put in place practices to detect and identify victims of trafficking in human beings who find themselves in international protection procedures.

There is evidence that in those (Member) States that could provide statistics, there are situations where victims of trafficking in human beings are detected, identified and in some cases, referred on to alternative provision. However, it is clear that this remains an under-studied and under-reported subject. (Member) States have, or plan to, implement measures to improve the detection of victims of trafficking in human beings in asylum and return procedures, without which, it is possible that victims may go undetected.

Publication Date:
Mon 31 Mar 2014
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