International Affairs Forum: What progress have you seen since the Greek Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings was established in 2013?
Dr. Hercules Moskoff: The office works towards increasing the percentage of victims of human trafficking who are protected and increasing the number of perpetrators put in jail. In those terms, I wouldn’t say that there is significant progress so far. However, there’s nothing exceptional about Greece regarding these statistics. It’s a global problem and the numbers are quite small globally. Human trafficking is not something that is easily tangible and measureable.
The office is accountable to a network of 28 national rapporteurs, which is accountable to the EU Commission system. In that sense, the transposition of the EU Directive that gave us the mandate is a very important step forward. Our office is not an operational office: it’s a lobbying, advocacy and monitoring office that facilitates the implementation of groundbreaking ideas and best practices. In that sense, we like to think of ourselves as honest brokers of ideas and our main P – in terms of the four P’s we use in trafficking: Protection, Prevention, Persecution, and Partnership – is Partnership.
I have received congratulations from EU partners in the Commission about this particular office and this particular mandate. I think this is because we have formalized relationships and cooperation with NGOs, international organizations, the private sector, and the cultural sector to support our efforts. We are trying to make the private sector more accountable in terms of not having any trafficking cases and helping to organize programs such as awareness campaigns and human rights education in schools.
There is a wide spectrum of efforts we are trying to accomplish. Objectives include trying to increase the identification of victims, and trying to bring more professionals into the screening process. This is not something that just concerns law enforcement: prosecutors and police. This is something that must involve professionals who are not law enforcement as well, such as labor inspectors, health providers, even people in public transportation and people who come across potential victims.
The key term for us is victim: presumed victims, potential victims, victims who are now suffering in silence and want to find a system of protection that is meaningful for them.
As I said in the beginning, there are two ways to approach looking at progress. One way is focusing on statistics which have not yet shown significant progress. But, on the other hand, in terms of institutional culture and political and legal culture and how visible the problem is in Greek society and our stakeholders, I can definitely say there is real progress.
IA Forum: Challenges you face would appear to have been compounded by Greece’s financial crisis and the current influx of mixed migrants. What impacts have they had on your efforts?
Dr. Hercules Moskoff: In terms of funding issues impacted by the financial crisis, what we are trying to do is facilitate synergy and platforms of NGOs or stakeholders that are eligible for funding from our big funding sources, which is mainly the Commission and some private sector funding in the form of foundations and other donors. When the system is not helping us, we are trying to be resourceful and trying to gather the necessary funds from wherever possible. Funds in general are limited compared to a decade ago, but we are trying to maximize the use of our chances and the opportunities within the European funds and other sources.
In terms of the migration and refugee crisis, every challenge, even every failure, is an opportunity. We will not slink away from these challenges because we are trying to see how we can be helpful there. For example, one of the deliverables of our law is to have a national referral mechanism. This is a roadmap for early identification for referral, for victim support.
In Greece and other countries, what we see now is a massive influx of migrants and refugees that are creating a potential source for victims of trafficking. These people are obviously trafficked or smuggled by networks, illegal networks, mafia or whatever else.
There is always a need, a demand, for migrants. Most, as has happened throughout history, end up doing the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs that others are not willing to do. Plus, they are flexible and are low paid labor needed for Western Europe.
The more sinister side of it has to do with the demand for trafficking. The West has this narrative that allows “human products” to move, to be circulated and consumed by citizens, who are otherwise not considered criminals because they are clients. This certainly applies to sex trafficking, forced labor, and other issues. That’s why we’re trying to raise awareness. For example, we are working to make the public aware that prostitution involves exploitation in most cases. The same goes for other issues, such as forced labor. We have to have a consumer consciousness that is more aware of issues regarding fair trade or the supply chains of big retail. For example, products that are not produced by labor in a humane and dignified way.
The terrorist attacks in Paris have triggered more controversy about the current influx of mixed migrants through Greece. What are your impressions?
Read this rest of the interview and more in the latest issue of International Affairs Forum, focusing on migration and statelessness, by clicking HERE.