Background & Justification

Research shows that although there is an emerging awareness about the right to compensation for trafficked people and that various compensation mechanisms for victims of crime exist, the actual receipt of a compensation payment by a trafficked person is extremely rare.

In most European countries laws exist allowing victims of crime to claim compensation for material and immaterial damages. The compensation claims can either be pursued in courts as a part of criminal or civil proceedings, in labour courts or tribunals, or by application to special compensation funds. The administrative and court proceedings vary in the national legal systems.

Despite the frameworks in place, access to compensation remains one of the weakest rights of trafficked people. There are obstacles at national level that make the actual receipt of compensation in trafficking cases very difficult.

For example, the trial can take a very long time and the trafficked person may have left the country (either voluntarily or have been deported) before the verdict. Also, specific groups can be excluded from compensation funds on moral grounds and traffickers can have moved the assets abroad.

Next to these systematic obstacles there are also many barriers for trafficked people to apply for compensation. They are often not informed about their rights and do not get legal aid at all, or there is a lack of knowledge on compensation measures by the authorities and others, including NGOs.

Why a project on compensation?

Compensation for trafficked people is crucial in the fight against trafficking - not only as an instrument of restorative justice and prevention of re-trafficking, but also as recognition by the states of the violation of their rights and the damages they have suffered.

Compensation includes remuneration of unpaid wages and payment in restitution for both general damages and special damages suffered by a victim of crime. General damages compensate the claimant for the non-monetary aspects of the specific harm suffered, such as physical or emotional pain and suffering.

Special damages compensate the claimant for the quantifiable monetary losses suffered, such as out-of-pocket medical expenses, repair or replacement of damaged property and lost earnings.

Compensation is a right for trafficked persons that can be recognized and granted even within the existing criminal justice framework that is lacking a human rights culture. All parties can gain by a system of compensation for trafficked persons.

  • Trafficked persons themselves, it provides justice and recognizes their right to redress for damages suffered as well as for unpaid labour.
  • States, because people do not return home empty-handed and so have the means to regain control over their lives and build a future, increasing their chances of successful reintegration into their society, which drastically reduces the chances of re-trafficking.
  • And, compensation can be used as a tool in the international fight against trafficking that addresses both the criminal as the human rights dimension of the phenomenon. Confiscation of assets would provide a disincentive to engage in this crime and will make trafficking a less of a high profit-low risk enterprise.