In 2013, during the UN General Assembly, the Member States adopted the resolution A/RES/68/192 and designated July 30 as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons (TIP). The day is dedicated to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.” To mark the day, the ICMPD Anti-Trafficking Programme highlights the importance of effective transnational and cross-border cooperation as an essential tool for successful counter-trafficking actions, including timely and adequate identification and support to the victims.
The cooperation initiatives stretch across a wide spectrum of areas related to TIP and enhance the implementation of policy instruments, effectiveness of prevention actions, successful support and assistance to its victims, and the successful prosecution of the perpetrators.
Two of the main pillars of transnational and cross-border anti-trafficking cooperation are the referral mechanisms for victims and the cooperation agreements between the countries of origin, transit, and exploitation.
Referral mechanisms for victims of trafficking
In the past 10 to 15 years, the concepts of Transnational Referral Mechanism (TRM) and Regional Referral Mechanism (RRM) for trafficked persons were established and used in practice by several countries in Europe and beyond. These mechanisms are a response to the emerging need for functional and effective cross-border coordination between anti-trafficking actors in handling the crime. They provide a detailed description of measures and responsible stakeholders that reﬂect the main phases of the transnational referral process of the victims.
Such mechanisms set benchmarks that the anti-trafficking stakeholders in any region and sub-region in the world could potentially adapt to and implement in their reality. The newly adopted EU Strategy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings 2021 – 2025 outlines the crucial role of such a mechanism to “improve victims’ support and referral in the cross-border context” and establishes as an objective the development of a European referral cooperation mechanism.
TRMs and RRMs are vital tools to encourage and generate mutual trust, as well as cooperation between the stakeholders in the countries of origin and exploitation of victims.
Official cooperation agreements between countries on TIP
The bilateral and multilateral agreements on the various anti-trafficking aspects are the main official tools for cooperation between countries. These agreements often have a geographic rationale in terms of trafficking routes and are, therefore, signed by countries that share a border. Others are signed between countries of origin, transit, and destination of general migration routes or particular labour migration routes. At the time of their development, the agreements naturally derive from the latest regional and international legislative and policy frameworks in the fields of prevention and elimination of human trafficking, fight against transnational organised crime, human rights, migration, legal assistance, etc. Often, national governments, following emerging TIP trends, initiate these agreements for themselves. Some other such agreements are of initiative of third parties – foreign governments and regional or international organisations. However, the actual implementation of the agreements faces challenges. The lack of political will and engagement often forestall the transformation of an agreement into a working, operational mechanism and the allocation of the required administrative and financial resources.
Ineffective cooperation often leads to frustration, unjustified expenditure of human, administrative and financial resources, ineffective prosecution, and, most importantly, to the inability to protect victims and provide them with the means to recover.
Therefore, to improve the transnational cooperation efforts, we appeal to the countries to:
- Adopt bilateral or multilateral cooperation agreements based on the current needs and specificities of the trafficking phenomenon. Implement a follow-up mechanism and monitor the implementation of the active agreements. Revise and adapt the accords to the contextual needs.
- Develop and implement regional and transnational mechanisms for the referral of victims. Revise and activate the existing mechanisms that are not operational.
- Adopt or enhance the existing mechanisms for official and reliable information sharing on cases of trafficking between the countries of origin and destination.
- Designate reliable national funds for implementation of the measures set by the cooperation agreements and the procedures of the referral mechanisms.
Only coordinated efforts on both political and operational levels, executed by all countries involved could ensure an effective response to transnational and cross-border trafficking and a satisfactory protection of victims.
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