30 July 2021
Every year more than 1.7 million women and girls are victims of sexual exploitation. Although the criminal networks and pimps are the ones committing these crimes, they are often able to act thanks to corrupt officials who allow these activities or even participate in them. On World Anti-Trafficking Day, we focus on this dimension of human trafficking and on the commitment of the Latin American Prosecutors' Offices to combat it.
Gabriella is 15 years old, but her ID card says she has just turned 19. For two years, a network of pimps has had her locked in a brothel where they sexually exploit her. Six months ago she managed to escape from them. When she saw a police station in the distance, she thought she was safe. On arrival, she was seen by a police officer, who led her into a room and took a statement from her. When Gabriella finished speaking, the police officer left the room for a moment to make a call. Fifteen minutes later, a car turned up at the police station to take her back to the brothel from which she had escaped. The next day, the policeman stopped by to get the pimps to return the favour.
Gabriella does not exist, but her story is lived every day by more than 1.7 million women and girls who are victims of sexual exploitation. Although pimps are often singled out, corrupt officials who look the other way or cover up these crimes are equally responsible. “Corruption is a scourge that permeates all structures, both public and private. The area of human trafficking is not outside this”, affirms María Soledad Machuca, a prosecutor with the Specialised Unit for Crimes Against the Economic Order and Corruption in Paraguay.
Some public officials not only look the other way, they even actively participate in or benefit from sexual exploitation. “Often corrupt officials negotiate with traffickers and exploiters for payment in bribes or sexual favours in which the victims themselves are the exchange currency used to make these payments”, explains María Alejandra Mángano, a prosecutor with the Prosecutor’s Office for Trafficking and Exploitation of Persons in Argentina .
For Rosario López Wong, a coordinating prosecutor with the Specialised Prosecutors for Trafficking Crimes in Peru, one of the problems that facilitate trafficking is advanced warning about police operations: “We feel great frustration when a planned victim rescue operation is not carried out or is halted because the traffickers have been alerted and the victims have been hidden, even minors.”
Other officials give licences for cafeterias to brothels, falsify identity documents to make girls appear to be of legal age or intimidate victims so they do not report crimes, as Marcelo Colombo, a prosecutor with the Office of Human Trafficking and Exploitation in Argentina, describes: “There are public officials who threaten victims and witnesses, either so they do not denounce the acts of corruption or so they do not appear as witnesses at the trials”.
The Latin American Prosecutor‘s Offices, within the framework of the Ibero-American Association of Public Ministries (AIAMP), work to detect and combat the public corruption that conceals trafficking. The Public Ministries are aware of the importance of working together and cooperating to end this scourge. “We are strengthening the cooperation and coordination between the Specialised Units for People Trafficking and Anti-Corruption in order to carry out an effective and timely investigation,” explains Carina Sánchez, a prosecutor with the Unit for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in Paraguay.
At FIIAPP, through programmes such as EUROsociAL+, EL PAcCTO and A-TIPSOM, we are working to promote cooperation between public administrations and jointly combat human trafficking. We do this by addressing the criminal chain as a whole. This implies working with both the police dimension (investigation and detention), going through the judicial route (drafting legislation and prosecuting in accordance with current laws) and finishing off with the penitentiary dimension (application of the penalties imposed).
With the # FiscalíasContralaCorrupciónylaTrata campaign, we reveal the hidden face of sexual exploitation. Although corrupt officials are only one part of an administration, detecting these ‘bad apples‘ is essential to ending trafficking. As Sergio Rodríguez, the head of the Argentine Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, states: “There is no human trafficking without corruption“.
11 February 2021
Posteado en : Opinion
The SENSEC-EU cooperation project has spent 3 years working to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of Senegal's internal security services. To this end, many people have contributed their professional skills, one of them is Nuria Roncero, key expert in the border control and surveillance component, who tells us about her personal experience in this project.
All journeys into the unknown begin with mixed feelings. The uncertainty that commonly forms part of our life becomes clearer and more evident. They are the same sensations one has when starting a holiday going to a distant and unknown country. In this case, you have to add the professional responsibility you are engaged in when going to start a new project. Very exciting, because I love my work; I’m very fortunate.
This is how my trip to Africa began, with a suitcase full of many years of professional experience and personal anecdotes and ready to take charge of tasks that I had no knowledge about in terms of how border security and management is carried out.
It wasn’t about leaving my comfort zone, it was all self-driven.
After a trip in which my inquisitive look at what is different to me was mixed with looks back expressing the same thing, I arrived at my destination, Dakar, with my eyes closed because at two in the morning the darkness everything. The first weeks, in which I was bombarded with information, were followed by others which were more chaotic with border closures due to COVID, which at that time was beginning in our country and the rest of the world. All continents were affected and Africa was not going to be less so.
It was not easy. It wasn’t for anyone and it wasn’t for me either.
Africa has a different pace of life, different smells, different colours and different flavours from the ones I knew.
You have to dive into it all to understand the daily workings of a country that smile at you every day despite all the calamities and poverty. Interpersonal relationships also have their own codes, such as the fact that some handsome, well-built Senegalese man asks you about your family as soon as they meet you. A coffee with another female member of the work team clarified the matter for me. It is typical before being asked out on a date, to be asked if you are involved with anyone, whether you have children or not or any other type of personal relationship. This question is answered by naming family members or saying what one feels appropriate at the time, opening or closing the door to more intense interactions.21
Little by little I got to know all the people who were part of this project, Police, Gendarmerie, Customs, administrators from all the Ministries, personnel from all parts of the world who are working in and for this country, Spanish colleagues stationed here for one reason or another and who give you all their support.
And so, building professional and personal connections, supported by the technical team from Madrid, we were creating border posts in strategic places, police stations to fight against irregular immigration and human trafficking, as necessary for them as for us, hangars for police aircraft, river detachments to fight against all kinds of illicit trafficking, creating manuals from scratch to ensure that all the training that we have given to more than 400 policemen, gendarmes and customs officers becomes permanent.
We have trained ultralight aircraft and drone pilots and we have taught them to navigate and monitor, with new boats, the area of the “mangroves of Sine Saloum”, a very beautiful area, where every type of piracy imaginable goes on. We have made great efforts to ensure that there is a little more security in a country where “téranga”, the spirit of hospitality, is its watchword.
And after a year of hard work, having left behind my initial feelings of fear and uncertainty, I will soon be getting on a plane with no return ticket for the moment, leaving much of my professional experience and many emotions behind in this country. I can assure you that the suitcase I am taking back is loaded with unrepeatable experiences. It took me all this time to get to know the true essence of Africa and I am convinced that there is still much to discover and many codes to decipher.
But that will be for the next trip to Senegal.
Nuria Roncero, key expert in the border control and surveillance component of the SENSEC-UE project
30 July 2020
An expert from the A-TIPSOM project tells us why cooperation is more necessary than ever to fight human trafficking today.
In accordance with the Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, human trafficking is defined as “the action of capturing, transporting, transferring, welcoming or receiving persons, resorting to the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, kidnapping, fraud, deception, abuse of power (…) for the purpose of exploitation”. According to this same document, exploitation can take different forms, whether sexual, forced labour or services, practices analogous to slavery, servitude or organ removal.
The current health and food emergency triggered by Covid-19 has increased the vulnerability of potential victims to any type of exploitation, mainly in countries that already had poorly developed infrastructure. The situation of poverty and food shortages provides the ideal scenario for criminal organisations to increase their opportunities to deceive, especially regarding women and girls at risk, offering them false promises of a better job and future.
The coordinator of the A-TIPSOM project in Nigeria, Rafael Ríos, explains how these criminal organisations have used the pandemic crisis as an opportunity to reach and recruit their victims: “90% of the Nigerian population makes a living from street hawking and with the closing of businesses they are unable to carry out this activity. Statistics say that Nigerians survive on less than a euro a day, their mission is to go out onto the street to try to sell something. By making that daily income impossible, they become victims who are much more vulnerable, because they are desperate and they will do anything to earn that money”.
A-TIPSOM is a project funded by the European Union (EU) and managed by FIIAPP, which aims to reduce human trafficking and migrant smuggling in Nigeria and between that African country and the European Union. To achieve this, the project addresses the problem through five main lines known as the five Ps: Politics, Prevention, Protection, Persecution and Partnership.
Humantrafficking rates in Nigeria have become a focus of concern for the international community. In order to eradicate this illegal practice, the Nigerian government launched the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in 2003 and enacted the Law Against Trafficking in Persons in 2015.
International cooperation, a key tool to eradicate human trafficking
Victims of trafficking are often transferred from one community to another, especially from rural to urban areas and from developing to developed countries through false promises. The involvement in this chain of these criminal networks, which operate from different geographical points, requires joint cooperation between countries in order to effectively combat this type of illegal business.
According to the United Nations, migrants are the group most vulnerable to being exploited and having their lives placed at risk. Every year, thousands of people die of suffocation in containers, perish in the middle of the desert or drown in the sea while being smuggled to another country.
Rafael Ríos points out that cooperation, today more than ever, has become essential: “the interruption of cooperation at this time would mean a second victimisation for the women and girls who are trafficked”. And he adds: “We are talking about female victims who have been trafficked and who have suffered nightmarish situations solely because of their interest in reaching a new destination. Our project not only runs prevention campaigns to make Nigerian women understand what human trafficking is and prevent them from falling into the hands of these networks, but we are also working to improve their living conditions in Nigeria so that they can find a job”.
Human trafficking and irregular migration prosper when there is a lack of sustainable preventive measures. The Citizens’ Association to combat trafficking in human beings and all forms of gender violence (ATINA), warns that in order to prevent human trafficking, attention must first be paid to the causes that lead to this situation.Traffickers tend to exploit and take advantage of the needs of potential victims, whether they are basic needs, such as housing and food, or emotional needs, such as love and belonging. Ríos points out that improving the living conditions of the victims is a key factor since it obviates the need for them to emigrate to another country, putting their lives at risk in doing so.
The cross-border dimension of the problem adds an extra complexity that requires it to be addressed by multiple agencies, both governmental and international, to coordinate a response with a multidisciplinary approach that covers criminal justice, human rights, investment and development.
On World Day against Trafficking in Persons, FIIAPP ratifies its support and commitment to cooperation in the fight against organised crime that impedes the development of countries and puts the lives of the most vulnerable people at risk.
16 May 2019
Posteado en : Entrevista
Rafael Ríos, coordinator of A-TIPSOM: the fight against people trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria, explains how he has been adapting to the country, what his daily routine is like, and what it is like to work as a FIIAPP expatriate.
How long have you been in Nigeria? How have you adapted to this country?
I arrived on 16 July 2018. When you arrive in a new country, as you can imagine, it is not always easy. I remember hearing about other projects, from other colleagues who had been in or were in other countries, who said “the beginning is always the hardest”. For me this has been a bit simpler, or less complicated, and I’ll tell you why. In this country we already had the embassy staff, and they helped us with everything from the outset, arriving in the country, accreditations, looking for accommodation, the office, etc. We spent almost four months in a small office that they kindly lent us until we were able to move. I wish you could count on this kind of support every time you started a project.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The hardest part was perhaps the second week. During the first week everything is frenetic, you have so many things on your plate… But the second week was like coming back down to Earth. That’s when I really started to realize where I was, and the step that I’d taken. Such a long project with so many important challenges. The easiest thing was perhaps meeting people, dealing with the Nigerians, who I think are happy people who enjoy their country and who, in general, welcome newcomers quite readily.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
No, it’s not. Belonging to the National Police gives you opportunities like this, discovering other countries and destinations, doing what you enjoy and what you know best. Previously I’d done different jobs in African countries, on short-term missions in Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, as well as in Europe, in Italy to be precise.
In light of this, is this proving to be very different to your previous missions?
The concept behind this mission is quite different. This one is long-term and involves a permanent deployment in another country plus working as an expert for FIIAPP . It’s something else entirely, and it’s a big professional challenge for me, since what we are trying to achieve with this project is very alluring, and at the same time very ambitious .
What is your work like, your daily routine?
Honestly, I think it’s not that different. Here, because of the hot weather, you get up and start work quite early. We get to the office, have meetings, go out to the different places we need to visit as part of the project. Usually we have lunch at the office and return home in mid-afternoon.
Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
As I said, it is a job that requires a lot of contact with one’s counterparts,which means you are often out of the office, and I find that quite interesting.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid?
Great! I would say that, in addition to having a great professional relationship, we talk every day, we share ideas, etc. We have even created bonds that are enabling us to achieve better results in the project, of that I am sure.
And with your colleagues in Nigeria?
The same. Several months on, the team in the field has been growing, with Nigerian personnel, which helps us a lot to understand their way of working, what they’re like, their customs.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
It is very positive so far. I think it is helping me to understand how an institution like FIIAPP copes with so many projects and with the scope of the work it does. The training, its structure and its values are enabling me to acquire knowledge. When you belong to an institution like the National Police, sometimes you focus so much on your professional life that you do not realize how work is done elsewhere, so the project is helping to train me both professionally and personally .
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Well, I could tell you several, but I’ll just say that I like saying good morning and learning new words in a dialect called Hausa, and in the building where we work I usually see two young people who like to teach me words like that: good morning, let’s go, go ahead… and it makes them laugh when they hear me pronounce them… Inakwana, which means good morning, is part of the day-to-day.
31 January 2019
Posteado en : Opinion
Rafael Ríos, head of the project "A-TIPSOM: fighting against human trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria", highlights the current situation for human trafficking and people smuggling and how FIIAPP is working to end this new form of 21st century slavery
Human trafficking and smuggling, according to different reports, ranks third in the world’s most lucrative businesses, after trafficking in drugs and weapons. This business is global and therefore the only way to address it effectively is through the coordination of multidisciplinary agents on the three levels of action: local, regional and international. Human smuggling and trafficking are intrinsically connected since smuggling refers to illegally moving people from one country to another for economic or material benefit, while trafficking refers to the crime committed when a person is captured, transported, transferred and received for exploitation.
Millions of people are not only caught by deceit and false promises in their countries of origin, but they also risk their lives to reach a destination where labour or sexual exploitation awaits them. To all this must be added the large sums of money they pay, without any guarantees, to the mafias who are experts in organised crime and who profit from their suffering.
The report on the global index for slavery, victims of smuggling and trafficking calculates that, as of July 2018, there were 40.3 million victims of trafficking in the world, of which 71% are women and 25% are under 18 years of age. The victims of human smuggling are men and women, but the predominant profile of the victims of trafficking are most definitely women and the cause of exploitation is mostly sexual.
Today, Nigeria is one of the most important source countries for human trafficking and smuggling in the world. Thousands of women and children from West Africa are recruited for trafficking before being taken to Nigeria and then smuggled out of the country, mainly to Europe, and treated as chattel. Specifically, this illegal activity is centralised in the State of Edo, a 2016 UNODC report, estimates that 94% of the women of Nigerian origin trafficked in Europe came from this state.
We cannot ignore the large number of internally displaced people there currently are in Nigeria due to the internal Boko Haram war. Undoubtedly, this elevated number of men and women expelled from their homes provides ideal conditions for the traffickers.
Therefore, the causes behind this business are extremely complex because they are associated with structural factors that are difficult to mitigate, such as poverty and war. For this reason, FIIAPP, along with the ATIPSOM project, is following the strategy adopted not only by the European Union but also by the Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which is based on: preventing trafficking through information and awareness to prevent thousands of women being caught by deception; protecting victims of trafficking and smuggling who have returned to Nigeria, and; pursuing the traffickers and smugglers with the ultimate goal of prosecuting them based on current legislation penalising these kinds of actions. In relation to this last point, FIIAPP can count on the experience of the Spanish National Police in investigation and coordination, which is essential to improving the results concerning the identification, pursuit and prosecution of the hundreds of criminals trafficking and smuggling people between the different Nigerian states.
The following actions cut across these three pillars: strengthening the coordination between government agencies and the collection of the quantitative and qualitative data needed to improve the design of actions and public policies; strengthening the coordination between the authorities in the different countries, not only in Nigeria, but also in the transit countries: Nigeria, Algeria and Libya, and strengthening the coordination between authorities and civil society by creating spaces for the exchange of information, experiences and actions.
All the actions follow a gender approach since, as indicated, trafficking is mainly a business based on the dehumanisation of women as a sexual instrument.
This project undoubtedly complements the Nigerian government’s strategy, not only so that the actions are viable and sustainable, but also so that coordination and cooperation between all the countries involved might form the structural pillars for long-term participation to reduce the number of women and men who are victims of this new form of slavery in the 21st century.
22 November 2018
FIIAPP addresses human trafficking as a global problem: many countries are affected by being the place of origin, transit or destination of victims.
There are many people who fall into the hands of organisations that exploit them, sexually or professionally, taking their freedom against their will. Human trafficking has become the form of slavery of the 21st century.
It is important to know what we mean by human trafficking, whose world day is celebrated on July 30. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, defines it as “the transfer of human beings from one place to another within the borders of the same country or abroad for the purpose of sexual exploitation, work or begging”.
To give an idea of the scale of this crime, the United Nations points out that there are around 21 million victims, 30 percent of them children and 70 percent women and girls. In addition, all these victims come from 137 countries, a fact that reflects the scale of this problem.
“Capture, trafficking and exploitation”
For there to be trafficking, “there need to be three phases: capture, trafficking and exploitation“, says Félix Durán, head of the Human Trafficking group of the Central Operative Unit (UCO) of the Civil Guard and expert of the project in the fight against drug trafficking in Bolivia, financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP.
Based on this, certain people are captured for exploitation, whether for labour, sexual, begging or organ trafficking purposes, among others; and this deception is used to take those people to other countries. “For there to be human trafficking, there must be transport and then exploitation,” says Félix Durán. The exploitation phase is the difference between human smuggling and human trafficking.
In addition, Felix Durán tells us that most of the cases of trafficking that occur in Spain are from people who come from southern Africa (especially from Nigeria), Eastern Europe (Bulgaria and Romania) and China. The profile of the victims is that of girls, especially from Nigeria, as well as elderly people in the case of Romania.
On the other hand, there is great difficulty in demonstrating an offence of human trafficking, especially if it is sexual. In order to be able to justify the crime judicially and be able to arrest the people involved, it is especially important to prove< the three phases mentioned, which in many cases is very difficult.
The case of Bolivia
In the Bolivian project, already mentioned, work is being carried out in the fight against human trafficking, since this problem is a crime related to drug trafficking, the main theme of the project. The project focuses mainly on the “3 Ps”: perception, persecution and protection.
There is a lot of trafficking in this country, so much so that Bolivia has been included “in the black list of countries that do not work against trafficking”, according to Félix Durán, an expert on this project.
Furthermore, a programme has been created in which training is provided to public officials who are closely related to this problem, working with both the national and municipal administrations.
In this regard, he emphasises the importance of cooperation projects in this area, in which “public officials who work on this struggle must be made aware” of the obligation to “provide training so that they know how to identify a case of human trafficking” and finally, as trafficking is a criminal offence, the need for international cooperation between institutions, according to Durán.
Nigeria, a place where human trafficking occurs
In the case of Nigerian women in Europe, 95% of them come from Benin City, an area of around 10 million inhabitants belonging to Edo State.
The majority of these girls are captured within a family environment in which their parents make them available to trafficking organisations. Such is the number of victims in this country that there are mediators from Benin City itself, many of them former victims of trafficking, who facilitate the work of the authorities in communicating with them.
In this country, the A-TIPSOM project, financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, seeks to reduce human trafficking and irregular migrant trafficking, both nationally and regionally and between Nigeria and the EU. It also pursues five fundamental objectives, the “5 Ps”: policy or strengthening of institutions and the legal framework, prevention with awareness and training activities, protection of victims, prosecution of smugglers and traffickers and partnership or coordination of the actors involved.
According to Rafael Río Molina, coordinator of this project, the situation in Nigeria right now is complex, since “the country is a strong point of migration and transit” due to the fact that it is in the centre of the African continent. In addition, “the number of women and children who are victims and who fall into the network of prostitution and labour exploitation, according to statistics, is higher than that of men”, which is why they focus more on these groups.
The enormous number of cases of human trafficking currently in existence means that this problem must be addressed from a transnational dimension, through cooperation between countries and regions.