HopeNow’s experience with Human Trafficking
- How does a person end up as a victim of human trafficking/prostitution?
- Who are the victims of trafficking?
- How does Hope Now establish contact with the victims of trafficking?
- What challenges do the victims of trafficking face?
- What kind of help does Hope Now offer the victims of trafficking?
- What cultural/religious circumstances inflict upon the situation of the traffciked?
- What kind of access do HopeNow have to working with trafficked persons?
- Who works with Hope Now?
- What options do the victims of trafficking hold prospectively?
- What is Human Trafficking?
- How many people are trafficked in Denmark?
- How many people are trafficked globally?
- Is there not a law or convention to protect victims of human trafficking?
- How can I support Hope Now in their work against human trafficking? How can I contribute?
- How can I get more information on human trafficking?
There can be multiple reasons as to why a person is trafficked.
Some of the victims have no idea of the work, or the extent of such, that they are expected to do. Others have been aware of what the work entails, but were under the impression that they themselves were to set the terms.
Hope Now’s experience is that the women whom we have met in the sex trafficking business/environment have not themselves chosen to engage in prostitution. In many cases, these women have been under the impression that they were to work in various other jobs, or they have been deceived by the traffickers. The majority of the women Hope Now has reached out to have never attended any form of education – and have been raised in poverty. The reality of their situation has made them vulnerable to exploitation, and the promise of a better life elsewhere has made them easy targets for human traffickers.
It is common, in many cases, that the women are contacted by someone within their local community who sees an opportunity to profit economically from their vulnerable position. Such people are usually cooperating with a larger network of traffickers.
According to the women who have been in touch with HopeNow, a person in their local community could lure them with a lucrative opportunity to live in the West while making money for a better life. During this stage in the trafficking process, the women are told that they will work as au pairs, hair-dressers, nurse aids etc. Simultaneously, they are also told that they will have to pay large amounts of money to the people who are arranging their travel to the West.
However, and despite our previous experience with human trafficking, over the last years we have seen an increase in men and women trafficked to work not only in the sex indurstry, but also to other occupations. Under the pretense of lucrative business opportunities in Europe, the perpetrators have deceived their victims to invest in such businesses. The traffickers, and people in their network establish a relationship of trust with the victims, and after the victims have sold their land or buisness they are transported to Denmark, for example. Here they are faced with the brutal reality that they have been deceived by the traffickers. However, after having entered into Denmark it is already too late, as the traffickers will have confiscated their papers, identificaton etc. Usually, the victims and their families are threatened so that any attempt to escape will jeopardize the life or well-being of either two.
The journey to Europe is often described as a long venture, filled with hardship and tough conditions. For instance, a walk through the desert, lasting for months, is not unusual. In many cases, victims of trafficking cross the ocean from North Africa, and arrive in Spain or Italy during the night – as the risk of being discovered is considered low at such time. However, the voyage across the ocean is seen to be of high risk for the victims, and it is not unusual to wait for several months before crossing. Upon arrival in either Spain or Italy, the victims who have been in contact with HopeNow have said that traffickers have told them there have been a sudden change of plans. They are now forced to work with, e.g. prostitution as the quickest means to pay off the debt they have to the traffickers.
If they do not comply, they usually face grave physical and mental abuse, and receive threats to their familiy. However, it has to be emphasized that the term human trafficking, does not always imply that the victim is kidnapped. The road to human trafficking is an ongoing process that escalates on the expence of the trafficked person. It usually occurs at the basis of an already difficult situation on the part of the victim. One can compare the psychological control and power the traffickers hold over their victims to such a difficult and vulnerable situtation – and it is such a situation, which enables the act of human trafficking and prostitution in particular to occur.
The financial crisis and rise in unemployment in the South of Europe are contributing factors as to why traffickers send their victims to the Western Europe. They do not profit as much as in the South. Therefore, HopeNow has seen an increase in African women working with prostitution in the streets of Copenhagen, along with an increase in trafficked men who was forced to partake in criminal activities such as forcelaybour, pick-pocketing and the selling of drugs. Some of these men have been able to escape from their traffickers and engage in new work, such as cleaning or manual laybour.
The victims of trafficking are seen to be both men, women and transgendered. They are not necessarily trafficked into the sex-indstry and prostitution. Victims of trafficking generally come from Africa, Central- and Easter Europe, Asia and Latin-America. The target group for HopeNow is both documented and undocumented men and women, mainly from different African countries.
The largest group of trafficked persons are, according to Center Mod Menneskehandel (the Danish Anti-Trafficking Centre), women from Nigeria, trafficked with the purpose of working in prostitution. Men and women from Nigera compose the largest group of victims of human trafficking situated in Europe (Source: UNESCO 2006 ‘Human trafficking in Nigeria Root Causes and recommendations’, s. 16).
In particular we see a large number of foreign women working in brothels, in the escort-business and on the streets of Copenhagen. HopeNow has also met women who has been locked up in apartments, or isolated in houses on the country-side.
Hope Now does impoartant outreach-work on the streets, in prisons, asylum centers etc. Through such work Hope Now has become a well-known actor in those networks where many victims of human trafficking will be found. Therefor there has been an increase in the number of victims themselves reaching out to our organization. Since 2006, Hope Now has worked closely with the Red Cross which have resulted in the identification of many victims of human trafficking in Danish asylum-system.
When the police raids the street, and are able to make arrests as followed, HopeNow is able to provide the Anti-Traficking Centre with aid by interviewing those who have been arrested – and further help with providing justice, by officially identifying some as victims of trafficking. Usually, HopeNow has already been in contact with the arrested people through our outreach programmes, and referred them to the Drop-In centre in Copenhagen, where we work closely with Center mod Menneskehandel and Reden Inernational.
When meeting the victims for the first time, we often see that the various situations they are in differ. In some cases we learn that the victims have already spent some time in Denmark, and are therefore accustomed to some of the shelters, drop-in centres or have an ongoing process of asylum going on and therefor live in an asylumcentre.
In situations like these, HopeNow is able to assist with counseling. During lawsuits HopeNow often becomes an important contact-aid between the Danish system and the trafficked person. Other victims have come to Denmark without the necessary papers, and, or lack the permission to stay in the country, and are not familiar with their rights to health care or their rights to receive legal aid. The majority of both such groups have experienced severe psychological and physical abuse – the outcome of such resulting in many victims suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)
Besides suffering from mental issues as a result of the abuse, a large number of the victims experience different physiological problems. However, in most cases, the biggest challenge faced by the victims are the enourmous debt they owe to their traffickers.
The victims often find themselves in a relationship of ambivalence with their perpetrators, as the consequences of breaking the contract or religious/spiritual oath might have many and serious consequences (read more under ”What cultural/religious perspectives influence the situation of the trafficked”). As a result of the possible grave consequences, and in order to continue paying off the debt, many of the victims remain silent when confronted by the governemt or police about their situation as trafficked.
One essential problem complicating an already difficult situation, is that many of the women have not attended any education/schooling – and they are not aware of their rights (basic human rights) or even aware of human trafficking existing as a phenomenon. Also, they are not accustomed to the Danish judicial/legal system. In many cases the victims come from countries which to a large extent suffer from governmental corruption, and their faith in the police and government are as a result very low. They do not trust the Dansh police, or the Danish system in general, and do not understand that the government can be of help. In such cases, HopeNow can take on the role of a mediator between the victims of trafficking and the public system through counseling and culture mediation
First and foremost, HopeNow contributes to the identification of victims of human trafficking (in cooperation with the Centre Agains Human Trafficking and the Foreign Ministry). Our main goal, and the core of our work is to support the process of implementing the Danish government’s Action Plan 2011-2014, with the aim of combating human trafficking in Denmark. HopeNow works hard toward offering help and assistance that match each individual’s needs and concerns. An integral part of our work is to establish trust between HopeNow and the victims, as trust is an essential step towards helping the victims admit to being trafficked. This might take weeks, months and sometimes years.
Unless the victims are identified as trafficked, they risk, instead of receiving the rightful help, to be sentenced to time in prison and treated as criminals. This is why our focus on establishing trust and solid relationships to the victims is of such importance to us.
It happens repeatedly, that victims of human trafficking are convicted for traveling with false documentation (something they have been forced to by the traffickers) – as a result of the victims not telling the truth of fear from repercussions by the traffickers. Since 2012 HopeNow has written more than 25 identification-documents via our outreach programme and network. This is a vital step in order to ensure the fulfillment of the victims’ rights and further case-work. HopeNow visits prisons where the victims own story will be documented and volunteers can have an observatory role in asylum cases as well as trials. Through such work HopeNow is able to see if the basic human rights are being fulfilled, or in some cases, violated.
Many of the victims of human trafficking receiving help from HopeNow are not recognized as trafficked by the officials. This is not uniqe for Denmark, but is the reality the victims face around the world. This reflects the legal, social, psychological, cultural and political complexities that make the field of human trafficking such a difficult one to collect data on. A reason for this might be that the traffickers are incredibly skilled at ensuring that their victims remain silent and in hiding.
However, by cooperating with lawyers and various NGOs, Hope Now has experienced successful trials in which the victims finally have been recognized as victims of a criminal act, and not as criminals themselves.
Further, HopeNow contributes in establishing contact with the healtcare sysem, the judicial system, psychologists as well as offering counselling and guidance to the victims.
HopeNow also take on the role of a mediator betwen the victim and the Danish system, which is why we work closely with all the different official organs who deal with the target group. HopeNow has an observatory role in psychotherapeutic sessions, and further, in those cases where the person is identified as a victim of trafficking, HopeNows assists in helping the victims get psychological assistance. In addition to this, Hope Now also has an observatory role when it comes to various health controls and treatments; execution of abortion, discovering of sexually transmitted diseases, support during pregnancy, dental visits and such.
Hope Now has also worked with integration of trafficked women who have received permit to stay in Denmark, and have further and in relation to such, developed an educational programme which you can read further of here. The aim of such is to offer the target group (those who have registered, but also those who wish to remain unregistered) with or without a permit to stay – tools to work forward with and constructively with their own life situation by using an empowerment strategy; to strengthen the individuals opportunity to actively deal with their own life situation. The women themselves express that this means a lot to them, to be able to be part of a positive and humane community while learning the appropriate tools to apply in their life. There is also a dissemination of contact to religious communities as are very important for a large amount of the Christian African wmomen.
As a large amount of the trafficked persons in Denmark are women from Nigeria, most of HopeNow’s experience in relation to religion, comes from religious issues with this group. Especially, HopeNow has experienced that the involvement of Nigerian traditional religion is a determening factor when working with victims of trafficking. The staff at HopeNow have made 6 trips for researching purposes to Nigeria, where, amongst other activities, have met and interviewed 5 ju-ju (“black magick”, based on spiritual, traditional religion) priests, and have, since 2007, interviewed more than 100 Africans which have shared with us their personal experiences and perceptions of ju-ju. Further, Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen has made a report on this field; “Menneskehandel og Juju – Religiøs pression og kulturmøde i relation til nigerianske ofre for menneskehandel” (Human Trafficking and Juju – Religious precision and cultural encounters in relation to Nigerian victims of human trafficking, 2011), in which was written in consultations with Hope Now and our experiences with such. The topic is highly complex, thus a short and simplified sketch of the complications victims face and struggle with is exemplified below.
Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen describes how traffickers or perpetrators, use religion and the deeply rooted spiritual beliefs amongts the trafficked women to ensure that they comply with the arrangements made and pay down their debt. In most of the cases from Nigeria, where recruited girls and women have undertaken an oath of silence and secrecy of their recruitment and enforced prostitution – a so called “Juju-oath”. This ritual takes place either before or during the process of traffficking. The ritual has in some cases been arranged by the trafficking network itself, whilst in other cases it has been arranged by local religious authorities.The otah establishes that the person does not reveal information that can compromise the perpetrators.
In addition, the ritual may have other purposes, such as for example bring proseperity and profit on the journey, or pledge a relationship of obedience to their Madam. It is however, important to point out that these rituals are carried out as “authentic” religious actions in correspondence with traditional ways of entering arrangements in Nigeria, but also as direct means to intimidation by the traffickers. The fear and consequences of breaking such an oath is, no matter what, so big for the Nigerian women that they either invent other causes for residing in the country illegally or purposely fail to give away the correct details in their statements in regards to their situation as trafficked. That means, that in the cultural encounter between Nigerian victims of human trafficking and european authorities, misunderstandings often occur.The swearing of an oath and many other misunderstandings and issues of mistrust puts a strain on the investigation of human trafficking, and complicates the identification. In this area, HopeNow has experience and knowledge which contributes positively in our role as mediator between victims of trafficking and governmental agencies. Problems with the inconsistency of the victims’ stories arrise when such stories are to be assessed legally: “The judicial system and its structure is based upon, that one looks for loopholes in the witness credability to manifest it and in such process these inconsistencies will be revealed/emphasized and weaken the credibility of the victim (p.17).
HopeNow emphasizes the needs and wishes of the individual. We work with the target group from a psycho-social perspective, and strengtens the individuals possibillity to actively participate in his or her own situation in life through help to self-help – so called empowerment.
Our involvement and effort is aimed at the understanding of meeting the individual where he or she is in his or her life at the time of initial contact with HopeNow. The organization’s work is carried out from different needs, but is generally a broad range of different activities, with the main goal of empowerment.
As HopeNow works as a bridge-builder between the individual victims and the Danish system, we cooperate with the various Danish agencies in connection with the target group. Over the last years we have managed to establish a close and continuous relationship for cooperation with central agencies such as Centre against Human Trafficking (CMM), Red Cross, Pro Vets, Kompetance Center Prostitution and Reden International, along with the police, social official agencies and the victims’ community of faith.
In the government’s action plan to fight human trafficking, references are made to HopeNow as being one of the lead organizations to carry out practical and social work in relation to the victims (Regeringens Handlingsplan til bekæmpelse af Menneskehandel 2011-2014, s.27).
This question largely depends on the situation the individual victim is in. A large number of the people HopeNow work with are also asylum seekers, and are therefore at risk of not receiving a permit to stay and therefore being deported. Some live as undocumented migrants in Denmark, and live under the constant risk of being caught by the police. Those who have been recognized as victims of trafficking, and at the same time have received a permit to stay in Denmark have the same opportunities, as everyone else, to receive benefit relief and participate in various activities during their reflection period.
Many of the victims do decide to return to their home countries or to Spain or Italy, which is often their first residential stay in Europe. However, there are many concerns and anxieties associated with such a return back home. After several years in Europe, many of the victims’ families are deeply disappointed and ashamed of that person who was supposed to have provided the family with money, but instead comes home empty handed. At the same time, if the debt they owe their perpetrators have not been paid off, the fear of physical and mental punishments upon return is all-consuming.
After many years research on different organizations in Edo State, Nigeria in regards to exploring the opportunity for rehabilitation of deported victims of trafficking, HopeNow has started working with the organization Society for the Empowerment for Young People, in the town of Benin (SEYP). In 2011 Hope Now recommended a meeting between SEYP and Centre Against Human Trafficking, which resulted in cooperation between the two parties. As a result, the first Nigerian women were in 2011, able to accept to a so called voluntary return. However, it should be mentioned that only a small proportion of the women accept a voluntary return, as Nigeria is considered to be one of the most difficult countries to survive in for people with limited or no resources.
Human Trafficking is often associated with forced prostitution. However, the term covers all forms of forceful exploitation of persons. Victims of trafficking do not always end up in the sex-industry, as is usually seen.
The act of begging, underpaid and exploitative work in the agriculture business and the manufacturing- and construction business, housework and organ donation are also globally widespread. The UN describes human trafficking as the fastest growing industry within the field of organized crime. By the term human trafficking, one means the act of; recruiting, transporting or transferring a person, keeping a person in hiding or receiving a person by the use of force or threats to use force, kidnapping, fraud, or abuse of power or exploitation of a vulnerable situation, or the giving or receiving of payment or advantages to achieve consent from a person that holds power over another person, with the aim at exploiting that someone. It is not relevant whether or not the individual has given his or her consent, if any of the mentioned acts have been used.
It is impossible to present accurate numbers on the extent of the problem, as human trafficking is usually executed in hiding.
The police estimates that around 2.500 foreign women are working in the Danish sex-industry and that the trafficking of women to Denmark has increased since 2002. Between the year of 2007 and 2012, according to Centre against Human Trafficking 246 persons in Denmark have been identified as trafficked.
Centre Against Human Trafficking further esxplains that the number of people estimated to have been trafficked has increased from 15 in 2007 to 41 in the first half of 2012. Such an increase can be traced back to, amongst other factors that SKAT (tax, Arbejdstilsynet (the labor inspection) and the unions has contributed heavily in the fight against forced labor.
Those observations made by HopeNow indicated an increase in the number of foreign women working in prostitution in Denmark. However, this does not necessarily mean that all of these women are victims of trafficking, but the majority of the African women have been trafficked at some point in time.
In Denmark women are mainly trafficked into the work of prostitution, but HopeNow has identified an increase in the number of trafficked men in Denmark. We have, in many cases, met both men and women who are trafficked into the cleaning business, and men trafficked with the purpose of selling narcotics.
The UN estimates that more than 700.000 men, women and children are subjected to the act of human trafficking globally, every year. As in Denmark, human trafficking occurs globally in various fields.
Yes there is. There is an international legal instrument commonly referred to as the Palermo-Protocol from 2000. The full title is; Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.”, which is an addition to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; an addition that deals with the problem of human trafficking more specifically. Denmark has signed and ratified the Palermo-convention and based on the UN’s definition of human trafficking, Folketinget (the parliament) in 2002 introduced a particular consideration in the criminal law: §262a. This paragraph underlines that human trafficking is a punishable act and one can be sentenced up to 10 years for committing such a crime. Up until now, traffickers, subjected to the act of human trafficking in Denmark, have been sentenced to imprisonments up to 3 years and a few months (LINK).
The Danish government launched, on the 1st of March 2007, in cooperation with the national parties, a new action plan on fighting human trafficking – with the aim of reducing the number of trafficked persons to Denmark. The action plan, where Hope Now is mentioned as one of the executive, non-governmental partners, describes how different initiatives are to fight human trafficking, and how to help potentially trafficked women and men (LINK).
Nigeria, as mentioned in one of the above answers, is one of the largest “sending countries” of trafficked persons. The country has anti-trafficking laws (“Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) law enforcement and administration act” from 2003). Despite of such laws and conventions, human trafficking continues to exist.
You can help Hope Now in our fight against human trafficking by signing up as a supportive member, and thereby contribute to our work in helping the victims becoming masters of their own lives.
A membership for 2013 costs 50 kr. for students and pensioners. You can sign up at http://hopenow.dk/stot-os/bliv-medlem/ and pay via credit card. You can also make a payment of 150 kr. for a support-membership or 300 kr. to become registered with a full-membership at: Registration no.: 1551 Account no.: 4250097875. IMPORTANT: Remember to write your name, address, CPR-nr. and your e-mail address when making the payment.
If you want to volunteer or intern at Hope Now, you are more than welcome to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org – we emphasize competence within the field of social work, organizational skills and experience within the field.
Read more on how to support us here; here.
First and foremost there is more information here, on our website. But you can get a better insight trough one of the many lectures we hold throughout the country – they are held on “efterskoler”, educations for youth, universities, clubs, private arrangements and many other places.
It is important to Hope Now, that the youth gain insight to the field of human trafficking, its extent and consequences and young people’s opportunities to make a difference. The concept for the lectures given by HopeNow, is that student understands that they can make a difference by actively contributing to the combat of human trafficking. This can for example be done by fundraising through ways such as saving money on the schools food budget, organize arrangements with the parents presents. In some schools the students even sold themselves as slaves to raise money for the fight against human trafficking. About 14000 boarding school students have throughout the years been educated in Hope Now’s anti-trafficking work.
If you want us to give a lecture on how to fight human trafficking and Hope Now’s work, please contact us on; email@example.com.
Here is a list of links to useful literature and films on the issue of human trafficking; here.