Combatting Human Trafficking
Human trafficking represents a grave violation of human rights and human dignity and is one of the most serious crimes. Human trafficking is increasingly developing into a global problem that can only be tackled at the global level and in an international context. According to a recent study by the International Labour Organisation“ (ILO) 2.4 million people fall victim to human trafficking annually. Human trafficking is increasingly developing into a profit-generating form of organised crime. According to this study, criminal networks generate revenues of 32 billion dollars per year with the “human being as a commodity”. After illegal drug trafficking and arms trading, trafficking in human beings ranks third in terms of generation of illegal revenues. Women and children are particularly affected by human trafficking.
In general, the victims of human trafficking come from less affluent third countries. At home they are usually confronted with dysfunctional families and domestic violence; other factors that contribute to making them vulnerable to human trafficking are a low level of formal education, unemployment and a difficult housing situation.
Because of its geographical location at the centre of Europe, Austria is affected by human trafficking both as a transit country and target destination. According to estimates, the most frequent phenomena of human trafficking in Austria include sexual exploitation, slave-like situations of domestic servants and child trafficking.
In order to coordinate and intensify measures in Austria to combat this crime, the Human Trafficking Task Force under the direction of the Foreign Ministry was set up in November 2004 by decision of the Council of Ministers. One of the first main results of the work of the Task Force was the National Action Plan against Human Trafficking adopted by the Council of Ministers in March 2007. The second National Action Plan against Human Trafficking for the period 2009-2011 was adopted on 26 May 2009 by the Council of Ministers. It takes a comprehensive approach to combating human trafficking and includes measures for national coordination, prevention, protection of victims, prosecution and international cooperation.
The First Austrian Report on Combating Human Trafficking was prepared in accordance with item 7.1 of the first National Action Plan against Human Trafficking under the aegis of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the competent Austrian ministries and other members of the Task Force on Human Trafficking and was adopted by the Council of Ministers 10 March 2009. The period under review extends from the adoption of the National Action Plan on Human Trafficking in March 2007 to the end of February 2009. The report offers a current overview of the activities and measures Austria has launched and is planning to take with respect to human trafficking. The Council of Ministers nominated the Austrian diplomat, Director General Ambassador Dr. Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger as the First Austrian Coordinator on Combating Human Trafficking on 10 March 2009. The Austrian government organizes on the occassion of the EU-Anti-Trafficking Day (18 October) a public event on 15 October 2010.
The importance of global and international cooperation in the fight against human trafficking cannot be but stressed. The United Nations, OSCE, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Council of Europe and European Union make important contributions in this respect. Supported by Austria, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organised an event entitled "Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking that took place 13 to 15 February 2008 in the "Austria Center Vienna" to launch the campaign Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking - UN.GIFT. As a host of important international organisations with headquarters in Vienna, Austria tries to make the best possible use of synergies opening up in this context.
A large number of the activities undertaken by Austria aim to contribute to improving the situation in the countries of origin. In this context South East Europe is one of the priority regions of the efforts launched under the Austrian Development Cooperation and Cooperation with Eastern Europe/Austrian Development Agency (OEZA/ADA).
The Foreign Ministry - as a chair of the Austrian Task Force Against Human Trafficking - is also proactively engaged in sensitising and raising awareness of staff posted at Austrian representations abroad in order to contribute to combating this crime already in the country of origin.
Austria is a signatory to all relevant international legal instruments to combat human trafficking including the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime; the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
In December 2009 the European Council endorsed the Stockholm Programme for the period 2010-2014 which shall contribute to an intensified cooperation between the EU Member States in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. A high priority issue in the Stockholm programme is the fight against trafficking of human beings. The swedish EU Presidency organized in Oktober 2009 an Ministerial Conference on Combating Human Trafficking. Furthermore, an "Action Oriented Paper on Combating Human Trafficking" was adopted in November 2009 by the EU Member States.
According to estimations by the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 1.2 million children are victims of trafficking in children worldwide.
Austria is affected by child trafficking both as a transit and a destination country. Because of its clandestine nature it is very difficult to determine exact figures on the actual scope of child trafficking. Moreover, it is sometimes impossible to differentiate clearly between unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs) and/or unaccompanied alien minors, minors who entered a country illegally (with human smugglers) and victims of child trafficking.
Poverty is considered the major root cause of trafficking in children. Children are particularly at risk of being sold or exploited when the level of formal education is low, and violence as well as addictive behaviour in the family add to the lack of prospects offered by the social environment.
In order to be able to give more detailed consideration to the complex topic of child trafficking, the Task Force on Human Trafficking suggested that a separate working group on child trafficking be established. Under the National Action Plan Against Human Trafficking (item 1.5.) it was subsequently decided to set up relevant working groups, such as the Working Group on Child Trafficking.
The Working Group on Child Trafficking prepared a report on child trafficking in Austria and an information folder on child trafficking in Austria.
The Task Force on Human Trafficking holds the view that it is necessary to differentiate clearly between the needs of persons who voluntarily offer sexual services for monetary reward and those who are victims of human trafficking, coercion and violence. Thus it is fundamentally necessary to have a clear concept for dealing with voluntary prostitution, as this is indispensable in drawing the necessary dividing line between voluntary prostitution and human trafficking as well as other forms of sexual exploitation and violence.
To this end, the Task Force on Human Trafficking set up an interdisciplinary group of experts in May 2007. This Working Group on Prostitution, which was chaired by the Women’s Directorate at the Federal Chancellery, was composed of experts from the competent ministries (Federal Ministry of Justice; Federal Ministry for Economics and Labour; Federal Ministry of Health, Family and Youth; Federal Ministry of the Interior; Federal Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Social Affairs and Consumer Protection; Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs) and from the federal provinces (particularly from the fields of women’s and legal affairs, the police service, National Health Service doctors, and youth welfare authorities). It also included all non-governmental organisations active in this field (LENA, MAIZ, LEFÖ, LEFÖ-IBF and SOPHIE) and experts from the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and the Austrian Chamber of Labour.
The first task to be tackled by the Working Group on Prostitution was to define its mandate in more precise terms. Although it was clear in this context that it covered the field of voluntary prostitution, the term “prostitute” is not clearly defined in either legislation or language. Thus the Working Group on Prostitution defined the target group to be discussed in its report as follows: “persons who in return for remuneration and on a commercial basis provide sexual services directly to the customer”. This definition does not necessarily include sexual intercourse; what is decisive in this context is direct physical contact with the customer and the intention to arouse sexually. Services without direct (physical) contact with the customer such as pornography, cyber and telephone sex are not covered by this definition.
Also the definition of the goals to be pursued by the measures to be elaborated required some clarification. Alongside the overriding goal of a clearly differentiating between voluntary prostitution and forms of sexual exploitation and violence, the following main sub-goals were defined with a view to the target group:
Improvement of working conditions, social security and health protection, enhanced protection against exploitation, promotion of self-determination and ensured sustainability of the actions suggested.
Members agreed that the actions suggested should neither serve to facilitate nor to expand market access. The sex market is considered particularly precarious for women.
The Working Group on Prostitution completed its work and submitted a report, which presents the current legal situation in much detail, broken down by the relevant fields of law. The impact on the target group and the respective amendments to the law and the accompanying measures suggested by the Working Group are also discussed. Moreover, an additional concise list outlines the measures in a target-oriented manner.