COMP.ACT SECOND YEAR - REPORT ACTIVITIES 2011

Background

On 1 January 2010, the COMP.ACT project to promote compensation for trafficked persons, initiated by la Strada International and Anti-Slavery International officially started. The aim of the project is that compensation becomes one of the key elements of programmes of assistance and services to trafficked people in Europe.

The COMP.ACT project is an initiative in 14 European countries that combines practical work, such as research, test cases and the development of guidelines for professionals with international advocacy and campaigning for access to justice and right to redress for trafficked people. The partner countries include: Austria, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Spain, Ukraine and the UK.

The coalition of project partners was formed and established in 2008. It consists of NGOs that offer direct assistance to trafficked people, the legal community, labour unions, migrant rights organisations and academics.

In the fist year of COMP.ACT, the coalition was very successful in raising awareness on the issue of compensation for trafficking persons on the European level, which is reflected in the International Organisations that partnered with the coalition: Council of Europe, OSCE, ODIHR and the European Union.  On the national level, coalitions were formed and research on the barriers and obstacles for claiming compensation started.   

Aim of year II

The aim of the second year of the COMP.ACT project was to strengthen the European Coalition for external performance and internal cooperation and knowledge sharing. The focus of this year was on (test) cases on compensation and to develop training for the legal community on claiming compensation in cooperation with an international law firm. The European Advocacy Campaign on Access to Justice that was launched in 2010 was to be further developed. New actions included targeting the international community and initiating actual cases of claiming compensation.

RESULTS OF YEAR II

International cooperation

The very successful start of COMP.ACT in 2010 continued in 2011. The institutional support from the Council of Europe and the OSCE and the close cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in human beings especially women and children, contributed to the visibility of the COMP.ACT coalition. ODIHR is member of the Advisory Board and supports the project in several ways; COMP.ACT partners were invited to participate in a workshop for lawyers on access to justice for trafficked persons, including compensation, in Istanbul. 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. 

The established working relation with two international law firms, Freshfields and Hogan Lovells, were materialised in 2011 through a training on claiming compensation for trafficked persons that was provided by Hogan Lovells for the COMP.ACT partners and their lawyers and active cooperation between COMP.ACT partners and national offices of the international law firm was promoted.

Promoting COMP.ACT on the international level

The project coordination and the individual partners have represented COMP.ACT at several international events in 2011.

In February, Marieke van Doorninck provided a presentation on the concept of compensation and the COMP.ACT coalition at a hearing on Combating Trafficking For Forced Labour in the European Parliament.

As part of the international COMP.ACT campaign, La Strada International and Anti-Slavery International, with the support of the OSCE/ODIHR and the permanent missions of Germany and the Philippines to the UN, organised a side event to the 17th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on 31 May 2011. The side event, “Compensation for Trafficked Persons: Making effective remedy a reality for the victims”, brought together high-level panellists to share their expertise on the issue of compensation for trafficked persons. These panellists included the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the President of the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) and the OSCE/ODIHR Senior Advisor on Anti-Trafficking Issues as well as the German and Philippines Ambassadors to the UN.

At the Fundamental Rights Conference on Dignity and Rights of Irregular Migrants, Marieke van Doorninck together with the project’s advisory board member PICUM succeeded in including the implementation of article 6 of the Employers Sanctions Directive, on claiming unpaid wages, in the recommendations of the conference.

Klara Skrivankova and Marieke van Doorninck have participated in a consultation of the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator on the upcoming European Strategy on the fight against trafficking in human beings and successfully advocated for the inclusion of the issue of compensation into this Strategy which is planned to be adopted in spring 2012.

Marieke van Doorninck presented the concept of compensation for trafficked persons and the COMP.ACT coalition at the OSCE Alliance Expert Seminar on Leveraging Anti-Money Laundering Regimes to Combat Human Trafficking, co-organized by SPMU, OCEEA and UNODC.

National networking

Partnerships on the national level that have been established in the first year of COMP.ACT have been strengthened in most of the partner countries and many partners report that the issue of compensation is now a regular topic at the meetings of their national working group on trafficking where ministries, law enforcement, judiciary and service providers are represented. Also in many countries connections with universities have been established. Many partners had specific meetings with a national coalition on compensation. LEFÖ – IBF has established a working group that meets once a month, which discusses both practical cases and promotes compensation. The group cooperates with the working group on the rights of undocumented workers. La Strada Czech Republic contributes to a national focus group composed of lawyers, attorneys, state prosecutors and representatives of the police. In Spain Women’s Link Worldwide has monthly meetings with immigration prosecutors, police and the Spanish Network Against Trafficking in human beings where practical issues on compensation are being discussed. La Strada Poland has regular meetings with representatives from different ministries, the Polish attorney General, Polish Ombudsman and Labour Inspection, that resulted in active participation of these institutes to further developments e.g. through organising common workshops and expertise building. MCRI takes part in the NRM working group and contributed to the mid-term review of the Irish national Action Plan, focussing on the existing barriers for claiming compensation. Open Gate/La Strada Macedonia has established working relations with the “Academy for Judges and Prosecutors”. La Strada Ukraine has created a broad national coalition including universities, ministries, the High Court, association of lawyers, human rights observers, international organisations and national NGOs.

Awareness raising

All COMP.ACT partners have been very active in raising awareness for the issue of compensation and managed to reach a much broader public than only the anti-trafficking partners. Most of them organised events around the publication of their national COMP.ACT report on the analysis of the possibilities and obstacles for claiming compensation. Open Gate/La Strada Macedonia presented their report for both national and international stakeholders, which increased the awareness effect of the meeting. La Strada Ukraine was invited to organise a roundtable on compensation at the ministerial conference “Ukraine Society of equal opportunities”. LEFÖ – IBF used the research study as a tool to enhance the debate on the issue of compensation together with the Ministry of Interior by organising trainings for police, financial investigators and legal civil servants. KOK has actively and successfully promoted its poster with decision tree on compensation amongst counselling centres and lawyers and translated the jurisprudence of compensation cases into English to ensure large dissemination. Gender perspectives /La Strada Belarus organised an international seminar on compensation for practitioners. At this meeting a regional legal steering committee was established for actions on individual cases. Together with Hogan Lovells, On the Road organised a seminar for jurists. This has resulted in a network of lawyers that communicates through (restricted) social media to share good practises, jurisprudence, analysis of cases etc. Awareness raising is also needed in order to secure funding for the activities the COMP.ACT partners plan in their respective countries, such as test casing and providing legal support to clients.

Analyses of the national compensation possibilities and obstacles

In the first year most partners started the national analyses on the legal possibilities for claiming compensation and the obstacles that prevent people from being compensated; most of these analysis reports were finalised and published in 2011.

These partners organised events with stakeholders and press for the presentation of their reports. Most of the reports are also published in English or there an English summary is available. A volunteer at LSI has analysed the possibilities and obstacles for claiming compensation that are described in the different reports. This analysis provides an in-depth and detailed overview of the identified obstacles and barriers and provides targeted recommendations. As demonstrated by the reports, there are a huge number of obstacles, both structural and personal to the victim, which prevent trafficked persons from accessing compensation. Many obstacles are not mutually exclusive and tend to overlap. The most salient structural obstacles noted by the majority of project partner reports in the pre-trial stage were: the non or misidentification of trafficked persons, the lack of training of stakeholders throughout the process (ranging from support workers, to police, to solicitors and judges) and a huge gap in the availability and quality of victim support services, which were noted to be vital for both the trafficked person in his/her rehabilitation as well as the ability to claim and receive compensation.
The main obstacles during the trial stage were found to be a lack of asset seizure and compensation orders made, a lack of criteria for determining compensation amounts and insufficient amounts of compensation awarded, all of which linked to the issues of a lack of awareness of a number of issues (legislation, policies, the importance of compensation, the needs of victims) and at times an apathetic or negative attitude towards both victims and the subject of compensation. A hugely significant problem cited by a number of the reports in the post-trial phase was the inability to recover assets from perpetrators, which is often linked to the fact that asset freezing orders are not made quickly enough in the process, allowing perpetrators to hide assets, a lack of specialised training in police forces and a lack of funding for investigations. In addition, reports noted that where assets are recovered, they are often not directed towards compensating the victim, but towards government funds. Personal obstacles to accessing compensation mentioned by a number of the reports were; a lack of awareness on behalf of victims as to their rights to compensation, a desire to forget their experiences, fear of their traffickers and reluctance to become involved with formal institutions and lengthy procedures.

Advocacy

All partners have used the outcomes of their reports for advocacy on compensation for trafficked persons. Before the researches were conducted, many of the partners (including the project’s Steering Committee) thought that no addition/new legislation was needed; only the implementation of existing mechanisms was needed. This is only partly the case. The reports show that some measures need to be specified, such as explicitly including compensation into the national legal mechanisms on counter trafficking. La Strada Ukraine uses the report for advocating the establishment of a state compensation fund. In Germany the Victims Compensation Act is currently being reviewed, KOK experiences a lot of support from ministries to improve this Act regarding the compensation possibilities for trafficked persons. Gender Perspectives/La Strada Belarus lobbied successfully for the inclusion of specific issues on compensation into the National Action Plan. The report and activities of Open Gate/ La Strada Macedonia led to the creation of a fund for compensation of minor victims of crime on state level. LEFÖ – IBF had included the recommendations from the report in their shadow report to GRETA, which were used by the Expert Group in their report to the Austrian Government. Within the Spanish National Network on THB and together with parliamentary groups, Women’s Link Worldwide is proposing a Comprehensive Law to Combat Human Trafficking, which includes a national fund guaranteeing payout of court-ordered compensation for trafficking victims.

Several partners indicated that national implementation of the EU Directive/36/2011 will be used to specifically address articles 7 and 17 on compensation.

Test casing

All partner organisations are exploring ways to support trafficked persons in claiming compensation. At the second Coalition Meeting in June, a lawyer from Hogan Lovells provided a training for claiming with state compensation funds and a specialised lawyer from the Netherlands presented a 5-step model for claiming compensation in criminal cases. MRCI has developed a system whereby vulnerable migrant workers can access quality legal services and pursue compensation assisted by lawyers in an affordable way and are expanding this work to include immigration lawyers. Since 2010, LEFÖ – IBF has claimed compensation in every case which included their clients at the criminal court, with the biggest success being awarded compensation of 30.000 Euro. La Strada Czech Republic monitors two cases of trafficking for forced labour in which compensation is claimed. In the case of “wood workers”, attorneys cooperating with La Strada are considering filing a civil suit to claim compensation.

Recommendations

The research reports of the partners include many recommendations, some very country specific, others more general. Examples of these recommendations include reviewing existing legislation and policies, have more uniform trainings for all stakeholders involved in the process of claiming compensation, increase financial investigation, freezing and confiscation of assets at the initial stages of inquiry, provide more funding for victim support services, create compensation funds for those countries currently lacking one, and develop a uniform approach to awarding compensation amounts. The recommendation on having a coordinated approach between stakeholders also highlights the need for systematic thinking about how to raise awareness in respect of compensation, how to formally integrate it into policy, legislation and the practice of those supporting, advising and awarding compensation to victims of trafficking in human beings.

Challenges

Funding for the national activities remains a challenge. Awareness raising could therefore help to get more funding. The awareness seems to be there on the policy level (although still much needs to be done) but it needs to drop down to the organisational structures as well as to the administrative structures. Many partners indicate that the attention on policy level and the international support is essential for keeping compensation on the agenda of the practitioners. The issue is far from being mainstreamed and ongoing awareness raising remains needed. Organisations fear that if the attention on policy fades away, the work on the ground will also come to a halt.

A large number of trafficked persons have an insecure migration status which excludes them from many rights. This problem needs to be tackled in order to successfully include compensation in counter trafficked policies. Furthermore, a large number of trafficked persons are deported or have returned before they can claim compensation. Claiming compensation demands endurance from the trafficked person, the service providers and the lawyers.

MRCI mentions the economic crisis as it in general will distract attention from the rights of exploited migrants and specifically can frustrate the creation of a compensation fund.

COMP.ACT in 2012

In the third year of implementation, COMP.ACT will continue (inter)national coalition building for external performance and internal cooperation and knowledge sharing. The analyses of the barriers and obstacles indentified and the recommendations on overcoming these obstacles will be disseminated on both national and international level. The mid-term products of the COMP.ACT project, specifically the KOK poster and the guidance on claiming compensation for professionals, will be translated into the national context and language of the partners.

At the annual Coalition Meeting an advocacy training will be developed and organised for the partners. In June, the findings, results and concrete products of COMP.ACT will be presented at a European Conference.