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Migration and Home Affairs

General information: situation on trafficking in human beings

Greece is a transit and destination country for victims, mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labor and forced begging.

As Greece is one of the entry points for migration flows into Europe, presumed victims of trafficking may be identified amongst the undocumented migrants entering the country. Victims of trafficking in human beings arrive in Greece from other EU Member States (Eastern Europe countries) and/or third countries (e.g. post-Soviet Union countries, South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa). However, Greek citizens have also been identified as victims of trafficking (domestic trafficking).

Given that Greece is one of the main entry points for migration and refugee flows into Europe, the reception and identification process is regarded as a crucial stage for the identification of victims of trafficking. This is because, for some newcomers, exploitation may not have happened yet, and the potential victim is not yet aware of the risk for exploitation. However, field NGOs mentioned that false promise of immigration has been used by traffickers to recruit victims, while in some instances smugglers functioned as traffickers, as they took advantage of further possibilities for profit in human trafficking.

The official statistics on victims’ identification and protection are collected and processed by the National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA) - the competent authority for the management of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for the protection of victims of human trafficking. The NRM is supervised by the Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings.

The National Referral Mechanism promotes a solid framework for synergy among a broad range of front line professionals from State agencies, international organizations and civil society. The NRM includes the First Reception Service, the Asylum Service, General Hospitals, Labour Inspectorate, NGOs and others.

More comprehensive and disaggregated data on the number and profile of victims and presumed victims are currently collected. Special attention is devoted to first-level identification of victims of human trafficking, including potential victims stranded in First Reception and Identification Centres, the so-called hotspots. Thus, human trafficking indicators are applied to the unified vulnerability assessment of migrants registered in the RICs. This vulnerability assessment is carried out by medical doctors and psycho-social service providers. Specialized seminars on the identification and referral of victims of human trafficking are regularly conducted for state and civil society personnel working in RICs. In addition, specialized seminars are currently organized for Labor Inspectors and Medical Doctors as well as for Law Enforcement officials.

The NRM stakeholders operate a sufficient number of shelters for victims of human trafficking, while shelters for unaccompanied minors have been increased during the last two years. The employment of interpreters and cultural mediators in public hospitals is also foreseen to fully address the needs of migrants and refugees and prevent exploitation and human trafficking. Prevention campaigns, such as the annual “Break the Chain” Festival, promote public private partnerships against human trafficking, and take on board path breaking initiatives such as slavery free supply chains in the private sector and human rights education in schools.

The NRM received referral forms for 154 victims throughout 2019 and for 167 victims throughout 2020. The respective NRM annual reports for 2019 and 2020 are available in Greek and in English.

In reference to the most recent NRM data of 2020, the female asylum seekers represent the majority of the adult victims of human trafficking, though mostly in their country of origin or along the migration route. The factor, however, that they are more easily identified as victims of human trafficking in terms of the organized reception procedure, must be taken also into account. Also Roma children, mostly coming from EU countries are detected as victims of forced begging in the country.

Amongst the vulnerabilities that appear more frequently are the problematic family situation, such as domestic violence and lack of family support, the victims’ poverty, unemployment and homelessness, inability to organize the travel on their own, their irregular status in the country and life danger. All of the cases that have been referred to NRM have been followed-up in regards to the victims’ protection and support.

NRM capacity building activities

To the direction of building the capacity of front-line professionals and harmonizing the interpretation of the legal framework, ΕΚΚΑ Anti-trafficking Advisors-trainers (deployed for the period November 2018 – March 2021 by the Norwegian Council for Refugees/NORCAP with EEA Grants funding) have been systematically delivering a series of interagency trainings across the country, as well as seminars to first-line responders (of the public sector and civil society) in the Aegean islands, and in the mainland during 2019 until February 2021. Since April 2021, the trainings have continued being delivered by the EKKA NRM support team members, in collaboration with the NRM legal advisor (deployed by NRC until February 2022).

The participation in those trainings has been non-obligatory, but the professionals’ interest, as well as their encouragement from their organizations and services have been a crucial factor for their increased participation. The participants consist of public officers (such as health care staff, police officers, coast guard officers, juvenile curators at the courts, GBV shelters staff), as well as of NGO personnel (psychologists, social workers, lawyers, in general protection officers and child protection officers), the latter mostly intervening in the humanitarian context for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers. At the stage of the participants’ recruitment, there is communication with the actors they work for, in order not only to facilitate their recruitment, but to identify their possible particular needs as well. The training curriculum is adapted therefore to their needs, for example if the professionals work on child protection, the respective thematic area is presented more extensively.

More particularly, the above NRM advisors/trainers have delivered 7 interagency 3-day seminars, on all 5 Aegean islands, where hotspots are situated (Kos, Leros, Samos, Lesvos, Rhodes, Chios) and in Orestiada (Evros region), as well as in Thessaloniki during 2019 and 3 interagency face-to-face trainings in 2020 (2 trainings during one mission in Thessaloniki and one in Lesvos), all face-to-face, with an average of 27 participants to each one.

The training curriculum covers the theoretical part of human trafficking and presents the key notions of THB, the forms of exploitation, the basic principles of the communication with the victim, the national legal framework on victims’ rights and official recognition, as well as the NRM SOPs and tools.

Additionally, a specialized collaboration with the Asylum Service has been developed, ensuring also EASO’s support; the EKKA Anti-trafficking advisors have developed a specific curriculum for the asylum service officers, adjusted to their specific needs (i.e., including a specialized topic of Refugee Status Determination for trafficked asylum seekers) and have been delivering several 2-day seminars, in Thessaloniki, in Athens and in Lesvos, as well as online. This collaboration is ongoing, with the most recent training having taken place through zoom at 1st and 8th October 2021.

Furthermore, EKKA Anti-trafficking advisors have been regularly delivering shorter trainings to NGOs' personnel, adjusting the presentations in their specific needs.

It is worth to add, that for each new member of NRM (mostly NGOs) brief informative sessions are being carried out, focusing on NRM and its tools.

More than 800 first-line professionals have been reached out through the above educational activities.

Apart from the above trainings and in parallel with them, several face to face informative inter-sectoral meetings, funded by ISF fund, have been held all over Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhethymno, Heraklio, Aghios Nikolaos Chania, Kalamata and Pyrgos), targeting the NRM focal points of all local state and non-state actors.

From the aforementioned review of statistics, it is evident that there is a clear need to build capacity on early identification of victims in general and specifically identification of victims of labor and other forms of trafficking. Capacity building of front line professionals such as law enforcement, coast guards, health professionals, labor inspectors, educators and others will contribute to identifying and providing assistance to more victims.

On a national level, there have been intensive efforts to fight THB, following a comprehensive approach that includes legislative reforms, inter-agency coordination, protection of victims, public awareness campaigns, cooperation with stakeholders from civil society and international organizations, and front-line professionals training programs.

Finally, Greece has ratified the Istanbul Convention that stipulates forced marriage as a human trafficking trend.

National action plan

The previous National Action Plan 2013–2017 was concluded successfully, as all main deliverables were produced. Specifically, Greece has aligned its legislative framework with European Directives and International Conventions, founded the Office of the National Rapporteur in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, prepared the National Referral Mechanism which started operating in 2019, and created a large network of different stakeholders to get involved in the fight against THB from the public and private sector.

Currently, a new National Action Plan is being implemented covering the period 2019–2023. The main priorities of the current National Action Plan are the closest collaboration and joint actions with the labour inspectorate, judges and prosecutors, and health professionals, through specialized trainings, more direct involvement and contribution to the NRM, and review of joint procedures of action against trafficking in human beings.

The collaboration with the private sector will remain a priority aiming to fight for supply chains free of any form of exploitation and implementation of due diligence principles.