LMI analysis: The Polish among 5 most frequent human trafficking victims

Human trafficking is one of the biggest crimes against human dignity and mental and physical safety of a human being. The phenomenon is still a large-scale problem in Europe. The traffickers manage to adapt the organizational structures to the changing conditions, using the technology and demand for cheap services in the European Union. 


Forced labour and human trafficking

According to the ‘Report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings‘ (2016) in Europe, the most common target is still sexual exploitation (67% of the registered cases). Next, there are incidents of the forced labour (21%). 

Definition of the forced labour is formulated in the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29, Geneva, 1930). As the definition states, forced or compulsory labour is: 

“all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.”

Following the ILO elaboration, it is to add that “all work or service” means any kinds of work, occupation and forms of employment”. Legality of the works remains a secondary issue (eg. as in case of forcing to drug production) as well as the scope of regulation in the legal system (eg. in case of the domestic work). “The threat of a penalty” means various forms of coercion, in particular: threats, violance, confinement, ID retention, refusal to pay wages, inability to dismissal wthout losing other benefits or rights. “Voluntarily” includes an agreement of the parties based on real information, which is free from coercion and fraud during the entire cooperation period, starting from the recruitment process. 


Forced labour victims on a European scale and in Poland

Poland once again is placed among 5 countries from which are the most frequently registered human trafficking victims in the EU (together with Romania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Hungary). Forced labour victims were most often directed to Austria, France, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Great Britain. Eurostat states that the most common sectors in which the victims were forced to work were: agriculture, construction, textile, hospitality industry, home care sector and fisheries. 

As in general, mostly women fall as the victims (76%), the forced labour problem mostly concerns men (74%). 65% of the registered victims were EU citizens. 

Different picture emerges from the statistical data gathered by Halina Nieć legal aid centre in the report  “Combating Trafficking in Polandfor the year 2015 and I – VI 2016. It shows that forced labour is currently the most common form of exploitation of the trafficked persons in Poland – it considered a half of the examined cases in 2015. Ipso facto it surpassed the sexsual exploitation. In the first semester of the 2016 53% of the victims were forced to labour and 21% witnessed the sexual exploitation. 


The traffickers and the methods

Latest Europol report Trafficking in human beings in EU” decribes the model of acting of the labour forcing traffickers. The characteristics are extremely long working hours, restraining in extremely derogatory living conditions, exuding of small food portions, hindered access to the healthcare, very low or none remuneration. The victims are subject to manipulation, psychological pressure, threats and often duped into illegal activity. However what is surprising, in this type of activity, violance is used rarely. 

Victims most often leave their country tempted by the promise of high wage. They search through the internet and newspaper offers – high earnings and no experience or qualification requirements are typical. Men are often recruited in groups – the future victims encourage their family members and friends tothe departure. 

Traffickers forge documents, open bank accounts on the victims’ name, take loans, and enter sale agreements. It also happens that the victims appear as the persons managing fictional firms, used for the money-laundry. 

Movement of the victims between a few countries occurs in cases of the forced labour. After “paying the debt” to the traffickers, the victims can return to their country or find another job. The social isolation, experienced during the exploitation enlarges the risk of re-victimization. 

Analyzing data on the trafficking-related criminal proceedings conducted by Polish Institute of Justice reveals an unexpected picture of the crime perpetrators. Most of them (60%) has not been recidivists. In 76% of the cases, the court assumed that the perpetuator did not make of the crime a steady souce of income. Only 12% were committed in an organized criminal group. To almost 80% of them, the victims were strangers. In majority of the cases, men were the perpetuators (and 28% women). 56% were Polish citizens. Bulgarians were the second largest group (20%). 


Europol’s recommendations

Combating the human trafficking requires a smooth cooperation and flow of information between the EU member states and Europol. The countries should also focus on intensifying the control on adults travelling with unrelated children which are a considerable part of the suferers. Monitoring the internet offers and other activities which might be a potential trap is also important. The authorities’ interest should also focus on money flows between the states of origin and destination of the trafficking victims. 


Human trafficking and posting of workers

The recent European Commission’s proposal regarding the posting of workers will most likely cause closing many of the legally functioning companies which send their workers abroad. Therefore, it will result in liquidation of thousands of the safe workplaces, altered by the black market. Burning demand for the services offered by posted workers will cause intensification of pathologies on the western countries, including human trafficking. The directive revision’s supporters seem not to forsee such an obvious corelation. The authors do not provide any tools to mitigate the potential effects of the revision regarding the human trafficking. 


LMI fights with human trafficking

Association actively participates in combating human trafficking and modern slavery. Awarness about the issue in Poland is low, thus LMI provides education in that scope. We recommend the guidebook “Safe work abroad”, which contains instructions regarding the basic rules of taking up a safe job abroad. You can download it for free here