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Human Trafficking Calls for International Collaboration

Human trafficking has taken new forms and is placing new demands on legal systems. This week, experts from the Nordic countries are meeting to learn from each other.

Finland's Presidency 2016

‘We need to get better at solving these crimes,’ says Norwegian prosecutor Rudolf Christoffersen.
He is one of the keynote speakers at The Nordic Region – a Single Market for Human Trafficking, a conference that will be held in Helsinki on Wednesday. The gender- and gender equality-themed event targets experts in for example social services, healthcare and law enforcement. Women and men suffer partly differing consequences of human trafficking. For example, women are more commonly exploited for sexual purposes, while men are forced to carry out crimes and provide free labour.

New forms of trafficking calls for new strategies

Rudolf Christoffersen has been involved in the work against human trafficking for many years. At present, he works for Eurojust, an EU agency for international cooperation against cross-border crime. From his office in Hague, he sees new forms of human trafficking emerging in Europe. It has for example become increasingly common that children are sexually exploited online, which implies new demands on prosecutors and the police. In just a few weeks, legal proceedings against a person in Norway accused of making children in the Philippines perform sexual acts and assaults on other children while he watched them over the internet are scheduled to begin. The man supposedly paid a poor family and instructed the children to carry out his wishes.
‘We have seen these types of cases in several Nordic countries, and they are difficult to solve,’ says Rudolf Christoffersen.
In many cases, the police do not even know in which country the violations have occurred, and it is often difficult to find out, he says.
‘The streaming traffic can go through countries that we traditionally don’t collaborate with, and that can make it hard to obtain the evidence we need.’

Another example of a new form of human trafficking that Rudolf Christoffersen points out is linked to the refugee crisis. Children fleeing their home countries are forced to engage in criminal activities such as drug smuggling and sex trade. Many of the victims are facing extremely vulnerable situations, and Christoffersen believes that the police and prosecutors have a lot to learn in that area.
‘We need to become better at dealing with victims who don’t want to collaborate with us. Their fear of reprisal keeps them from contacting us,’ he says.

Maybe their trust in law enforcement would increase if more crimes were solved, he speculates.
‘We need to become better at getting people convicted. Otherwise we risk signalling to the victims that we don’t care,’ he says.

Rudolf Christoffersen thinks that policy makers should be more active as well. He believes that the consequences for perpetrators are too mild and would like to see harsher punishments.
‘That is true for the entire Nordic region. The penalties are far too soft,’ he says.

International collaboration necessary

Rudolf Christoffersen. Photo: private
 Rudolf Christoffersen. Photo: private

Effective management of the new forms of human trafficking requires international collaborations not only in the Nordic region but also all over Europe. Moreover, there is a need for expert competence in the legal sector, says Rudolf Christoffersen. As an example, he mentions the Norwegian introduction of expert teams. The teams are available in the five largest cities and consist of police officers and prosecutors specialising in combating human trafficking.
‘There are similar examples in other countries. We need to become better at sharing our methods and experiences so that we can learn from each other,’ says Rudolf Christoffersen.

The conference on Wednesday may fill a void in that respect, he believes. Researchers and experts in various fields and from several countries will participate in the conference. For example, Lisa Green, county coordinator against human trafficking in Malmö, Sweden, will give a presentation on the city’s work to support refugee children. Maija Koskenoja, senior officer at the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman in Finland, will talk about the methods perpetrators use and the psychological consequences of human trafficking from a gender equality perspective. Prosecutor Jette Malberg and police officer Anders Morville will talk about the Danish investigation Operation Hvepsebo, which revealed a case where people were being exploited by being forced to carry out criminal acts.

The conference is arranged by the Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman in cooperation with the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman will open the event, and Minister of the Interior will also be there.

Updated 13 April 2020