Refugees – Victims of human trafficking

Refugees - Victims of human trafficking

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a process involving exploiting and keeping a person in the state of servitude for economic gain.

Several forms of exploitation may be identified: slavery or practices similar to slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labor and any sorts of child labor, and/or removal of organs.

There are no precise statistical data available on the number of human trafficking victims due to the criminal nature of the matter.

International regulations on human trafficking

The complete definition and international law framework of combatting human trafficking are set forth in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (2000).

The said instrument supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime adopted in 2000.

Russia signed and ratified both the UN Convention and the Protocols thereto in 2004. However, Russia is the only member state of the Council of Europe that has not signed the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings adopted in 2005.

Nevertheless, by signing the UN Convention Russia has committed to not only combatting human trafficking but also to abstaining from prosecuting human trafficking victims for criminal acts and offences connected to their victim status as well as to offering protection and assistance to the victim, including financial help and legal counselling.

Human trafficking victims and asylum

Refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons are at particularly high risk of becoming a human trafficking victim. For example, a person claiming they can help to flee a country where one is in danger may turn out to be a trafficker.

In turn, human trafficking victims and potential victims may be covered by the notion of a refugee as defined in Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Refugee Convention as persons persecuted for reasons of membership of a particular social group. This possibility is laid down in Article 14 of the UN Trafficking Protocol.

The trafficking itself may be considered a form of persecution and a ground for seeking asylum where the state of origin cannot or is unwilling to protect the victims.

As a general rule, most human trafficking victims have all the reasons to believe that their lives will be endangered in the event of returning to their country of origin.

· Many of the victims have suffered physical, sexual and psychological violence, fraud, threats or coercion.

· Should a victim, especially a woman, return to their place of origin, they may be subjected to revenge by the traffickers or even re-trafficking.

· Very often a sexual exploitation victim’s family, relatives or community turn into a source of persecution, discrimination and punishment, in particular, because of the stigma associated with sexual exploitation,

Trafficking in Russia

There is a black market of human trafficking in Russia. It is mostly young women from Nigeria, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia who are trafficked to Russia.

At the time of the 2018 World Cup underage girls from Nigeria were often trafficked to Russia for sexual slavery. This sudden peak was due to the fact that before the World Cup they needed a visa to enter the country, whereas in 2018 just a fan ID was sufficient to cross the border.

In practice, there are extremely few cases opened in Russia under Article 127 of the Russian Criminal Code on «unlawful restraint».

More on the topic

UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection No. 1: Gender-Related Persecution Within the Context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection No. 7: The Application of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees to Victims of Trafficking and Persons At Risk of Being Trafficked

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