[Brussels, 16 October 2014] On Wednesday 15 October the Immigrant Council of Ireland, together with LSA Glasgow, AIRE London, MONIKA Finland and two of EWL members, BGRF Bulgaria and KSPSC Lithuania, organised a hearing in the European Parliament to introduce the launch of their project: “Upholding Rights! Early Legal Intervention for victims of human trafficking”. It aims to establish best practice in securing the protection of victims of trafficking through early legal intervention and therefore improving their social recovery and their role as witnesses. They strongly believe that early legal intervention is the key to protect victims of trafficking and advocate for a better coordination between the national and EU policies and a better cooperation between the civil society and the state.
MEP Malin Björk, Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left, opened the discussion by stating that her commitment regarding trafficking in women and girls will focus on protecting women and girls and assuring that their rights are respected. She denounced the lack of funding and advocated in favor of the Nordic model with regards to prostitution, willing to implement the necessary tools to reduce the demand.
The following speaker, Zoi Sakeliadou, Office of the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, argued that trafficking is a grave violation of human rights and a high priority for future financing on the political agenda of the European Commission. She also highlighted on several occasions that trafficking is a form of violence against women and a gender-specific and child-sensitive phenomenon linked to the demand: “Trafficking happens because of the demand”. In 2013 the European Commission DG Home Affairs produced a handbook for the identification of victims of trafficking in human beings. Ms Sakeliadou concluded by stressing that building alliances and working together is the key to combat this issue: “Action must be taken now”.
The hearing continued with the intervention of Lauren Hersh, Director of Anti-Trafficking Policy & Advocacy at the Sanctuary for Families in New York, USA. She also insisted on the fact that demand drives supply (“No buyer, no business”) and that we should focus on prevention. Ms Hersh gave an overview of situation of trafficking and prostitution in the United States: laws vary from one state to another, but all 50 states have laws that criminalise solicitation of prostitution. The session ended with the presentation of the Early Legal Intervention Project by Nusha Yonkova, Anti-Trafficking Manager at the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
All the partners of the project gathered in Dublin on Friday 17 October for a similar event. Ms Hersh provided an American perspective on this issue by sharing her own experience as a former prosecutor and published an article in the Irish Examiner newspaper encouraging Ireland to move towards the abolition of prostitution.