Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings
Human trafficking represents a grave violation of human rights and human dignity and is one of the most serious crimes worldwide. 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 figures provided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 2.4 million people fall victims of human trafficking annually. Human trafficking is increasingly developing into a profit-generating form of organised crime. According to the ILO, 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, 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 human trafficking for 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 Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking under the direction of the Foreign Ministry was set up in November 2004 by a decision of the Austrian government. The Task Force is in charge of elaborating National Action Plans on Combating Human Trafficking and of supervising the implementation of these National Action Plans. The first National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking was adopted in March 2007, the second National Action Plan (2009-2011) was adopted in May 2009 and the third National Action Plan was adopted on 20 March 2012 by the Austrian government. The National Actions Plans reflect a comprehensive approach to combating human trafficking and include measures for national coordination, prevention, protection of victims, prosecution and international cooperation.
The Austrian government nominated the Austrian Diplomat, Director General Ambassador Dr. Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger as the first National Coordinator on Combating Human Trafficking on 10 March 2009. Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger is also charing the Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking.
The Task Force prepares reports regarding the implementation of the austrian measures on a regular basis. The First Austrian Report on Combating Human Trafficking was adopted on 10 March 2009 and the Second Austrian Report on Combating Human Trafficking was adopted on 20 March 2012.
Each year the Austrian government organizes public events on the occassion of the EU-Anti-Trafficking Day (18 October). This year the public event takes place on 5 October 2012 at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. The Austrian Task Force developed an exhibition for schools "Human Trafficking - Slavery of the 21 century" which is also presented at public events.
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. Austria supports the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its efforts to combat human trafficking as well as the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking - UN.GIFT.
A large number of the activities undertaken by Austria aim to contribute to improving the situation in the countries of origin. In this context Eastern Europe is one of the priority regions of the efforts launched under the Austrian Development Cooperation/Austrian Development Agency (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 2010/2011 Austria was one of the first european countries to be evaluated by the Expert group of the Council of Europe GRETA. In 2010 Austria submitted a report regarding the situation in Austria to GRETA.
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 established a separate working group on child trafficking. This working group already prepared two reports: first report on child trafficking (2007-2009) and a second report on child trafficking (2009-2011) as well as an information folder on child trafficking in Austria. According to the third National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking it is foreseen that this working group continues its activities.
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. 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 is chaired by the Women’s Directorate at the Federal Chancellery, is composed of experts from the competent ministries, from the federal provinces as well as non-governmental organisations active in this field and experts from the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and the Austrian Chamber of Labour. According to the third National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking it is foreseen that this working group continues its activities.