RESULTS OF YEAR I

International Cooperation

On the international level the first year has been very successful for the COMP.ACT project and its partners. Both the Council of Europe and the OSCE have granted their institutional support to the project, and high representatives from both organisations delivered a speech at the official launch of the project in Prague in June 2010. Also UNODC and UN.GIFT expressed their interest in cooperation with COMP.ACT, and have financially contributed to the realisation of project activities in Macedonia and Ukraine. ODIHR is member of the Advisory Board and supports the project in several ways. COMP.ACT partners were invited to participate in the Conference on Effective Remedies by the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking and have been requested to deliver input for the report on effective remedies that the Special Rapporteur will present in June 2011.
This support from international organisations is important for the project as it ensures that awareness is raised on different levels, the topic is put on the anti-trafficking agenda and national governments will be more inclined to take on the issue of compensation as an important part of their anti-trafficking measures and policies.

Especially in 2011, when the international campaign will be developed and launched, the COMP.ACT project can benefit a lot from the international support that has been gained in 2010. International partners have indicated that they are keen on cooperating in the development and will attach their name to the campaign. The end goal of the campaign is to raise awareness amongst national states to promote compensation and to remove the barriers and obstacles. The support from the international community on anti-trafficking is of utmost importance to reach out to national states.

Next to establishing close working relations with international organisations in the field of anti-trafficking, COMP.ACT has also joined forces with two international law firms, Freshfields and Hogan Lovells. These law firms have expressed their interest and commitment in partnering in the project and contributing with their experience to the project, by providing pro bono legal assistance to trafficked persons in test cases and by training legal staff and lawyers from the COMP.ACT national partner organisations in claiming compensation for their clients.

Promoting COMP.ACT on the international level

The project coordination and the individual partners have represented COMP.ACT at several international events in 2010.
In February Evelyn Probst (LEFO) and Klara Skrivankova presented COMP.ACT at the Workshop “Trafficking in Human Beings for Labour Exploitation - emerging civil society responses to a growing challenge” in Bucharest, Rumania.
In June and September 2010, Marieke van Doorninck and Klara Skrivankova were invited to present the project at meetings of the Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) and the Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings in Strasbourg.
On 18 October 2010, EU anti-trafficking day, Irene Konecna of La Strada Czech Republic presented in Serbia at the event meeting of the Council of Europe on “Criminal Assets Recovery in Serbia”.

At the Conference of the State Parties to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime in Vienna in October, COMP.ACT organised a side event on compensation.
The full Steering Group attended the conference organised by Freshfields /Aire center “Human trafficking: routes to effective enforcement” in London. Lastly, Galina Tjurina (La Strada Belarus) and Klara Skrivankova were invited at the Expert Consultation on Effective Remedies for Trafficked Persons by the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, in Bratislava in November.

National networks

All partner organisations have successfully introduced the issue of compensation in the national working groups on trafficking. La Strada Bulgaria (Animus Association) ensured that compensation became an integral part of the Bulgarian National Referral Mechanism. La Strada Poland accomplished that in the Polish national working group on trafficking a sub group on compensation will be formed and it is to be incorporated in the new version of the National Action Plan. La Strada Ukraine has created an E-group of stakeholders.
Next to the usual partners, in many countries new contacts and partnerships were established with, amongst others, lawyers, law departments in university, victim protection organisations. MRCI in Ireland has actively involved people claiming compensation in the project as participants instead of clients.
For the next years it is important to maintain these partnerships and establish contacts with especially migrant rights organisations and trade unions.

Awareness raising

Most partners indicated that they succeeded very well in raising awareness amongst their own network partners. Although the majority had not really thought about compensation before, most partners in the field, both from civil society and from governmental organisations, are very receptive to the idea that trafficked persons should be compensated for unpaid wages and for damage done. This first awareness raising and understanding within the anti-trafficking field is very important to spread the message further. In this matter, the governmental awareness and interest is essential. For more broad awareness raising the COMP.ACT partners included the issue of compensation in their public appearances, interviews and presentations. La Strada Belarus (Gender Perspectives) and the experts that conducted the research into the compensation possibilities in Belarus, promoted the results of the study at several media appearances and law magazines. La Strada International published a statement on compensation on Anti-Trafficking Day 18 October 2010.
For 2011 it is important that awareness is raised among a broader group than the anti-trafficking world. The starting cooperation with the legal network is of utmost importance putting compensation on the agendas of lawyers, prosecutors and judges. In Italy, On the Road will in early 2011 organise a seminar, together with Hogan Lovells, for jurists on the issue of compensation. Awareness raising is also needed in order to secure funding for the activities the COMP.ACT partners plan in their countries, such as test casing and providing legal support to clients.

Analyses of the national compensation possibilities and obstacles

One of the philosophies of the COMP.ACT project is that, in order for trafficked persons to be compensated, national policies and laws need not be changed but rather implemented. In order to make that happen, an analyses of the legal possibilities for claiming compensation and the obstacles that prevent people from being compensated, is needed. In some of the partner countries, researches on compensation measures had been conducted before the project started, often by the COMP.ACT partner organisation.
As soon as it was known that the COMP.ACT project would start in 2010, La Strada Belarus included funding for the research in a grant application and could start with the research already in 2009. They had invited the ministry of interior to the steering group of the research and by doing so, ensuring the ongoing attention of the government for the issue. MRCI (Ireland) had already conducted a research together with CCME (member of the COMP.ACT Advisory Board).
In Germany, the research on compensation measures was done in 2009 by the German Institute for Human Rights and currently our partner KOK is involved in a study on forced labour and the access to labour courts and compensation. The results of the first study have been processed into a schedule that gives an easy overview on what compensation measures are suitable for the specific situation a trafficked person is in. KOK has produced a poster and is together with lawyers providing trainings for NGOs on how to support clients in claiming compensation.
For the partners that not had started the research, the project coordination hired a consultant to develop a common research framework/methodology in order to collect comparable data from all partner countries. The methodology was explained and discussed at a special training at the first Coalition meeting in Prague in June. The partners in Austria, Macedonia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland and Czech Republic are conducting the research using this template. Results are expected in June 2011. All the project partners will create a moment for publicity when the report is to be published. The results of all the researches will be analysed by the project coordination and a report with general conclusions and recommendations will be published.
Due to funding problems, On the Road, the Italian partners has yet not been able to conduct a full research; nevertheless, the organisation has developed a questionnaire that was sent out to all service providers in Italy.

Test casing

Although none of the partners has already officially started with test cases (that is to identify a specific case, organise a specialised lawyer and run the case in order to gather jurisprudence), several partners have been somehow involved in supporting a client in a compensation case. In Austria, compensation was awarded and paid from the confiscated assets of the trafficker in one case.
In Poland, La Strada is involved in a process of compensation claim of eight exploited Thai workers in cooperation with the Thai Embassy and an experienced lawyer. La Strada Czech is collecting powers of attorney of the group of forestry workers that were exploited; there are seven cases on compensation pending.
La Strada Bosnia & Herzegovina is monitoring two cases of compensation claims in Sarajevo. MRCI advises and represents people who have been trafficked for the purposes of labour exploitation in seeking legal redress and back wages through a number of state bodies which deal specifically with work related rights and entitlement: the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), the Labour Court and the Equality Tribunal.

One conclusion that can already be drawn from the research and the practical work of amongst others Lefö in Austria and MRCI in Ireland, is that if there is no (legal and financial) support for a trafficked person when claiming compensation, there is very little chance for success.

Sharing and learning

Not all partners of COMP.ACT are following the same path at the same pace. The project consists of several components (research, awareness campaign, networking and test cases) and it depends on the situation in the country, which order and consistency the project partners follow. This was foreseen and not at all a problem for the progress of the project. The idea is that project partners can share experiences and learn from each other. This can be done at the annual coalition meeting, but also through the different channels of communication that the project coordination has developed, such as the website and news letter.

Already some partners have gained a specific experience:
Austria: research and intensive support to trafficked person claiming compensation
Belarus: research and how to involve government (especially interesting for countries in less democratic states)
Germany: Special poster for NGOs on different compensation measures and the impact for trafficked persons; experience in training NGOs
Czech Republic: Representation of a larger group of exploited workers in a compensation case
Italy: Awareness raising for legal community
Ireland: Experience in representing exploited people claiming compensation in courts

Challenges

Funding for the national activities remains a challenge. Awareness raising would therefore also help to get more funding. Gathering all the information from court files etc. is bureaucratic and takes a lot of time. Although awareness is increasing, if there is too little understanding of the importance of compensation with the main partners, the process will be frustrated and delayed. When people are deported they can not claim compensation. MRCI is working on a case to obtain a residence permit, in order to pursue a compensation claim. This means that having the pending compensation claim should be ground for obtaining a (temporary) residence permit.