Ensuring Victims of Human Trafficking Get the Support They Deserve

Human trafficking, including trafficking for sexual purposes, continues to grow and countering this threat requires the attention of all relevant government agencies to ensure that the victims are protected and receive the support and care they deserve. This blog post is a summary reflection, by one of our dedicated volunteers Samuel Maher, around the main conclusions in the Swedish Migration Board’s Report of 2013.

A key element in ensuring that victims of human trafficking get the welfare, legal and guardianship support they need is appropriate referral and coordination of cases between government agencies at a national, country and municipal level.

A report released in 2013 by the Swedish Migration Board says that the current system for referrals that relies on the experience, knowledge and training of Swedish Migration Board Officers is adequate and that there is no need for a formal national referral system for human trafficking cases.

With human trafficking and its associated misery, one can question whether or not a reliance on knowledge, training and experience is sufficient to ensure that victims of human trafficking are identified and receive the appropriate level of support – including on welfare, legal support, protection and repatriation issues.

Given the report itself recognizes the high turnover of officers responsible for human trafficking and that in the past there have been issues with awareness at the Migration Board, there is a strong case for looking further at the need for a national referral system in line with several other EU countries.

The Swedish Migration Board’s report has the rather long-winded title of “Identification of victims of trafficking in human beings in international protection and forced return procedures” – which really means: how does the Swedish Migration Board identify cases of human trafficking and how do the victims get handled by the Swedish Migration Board and other government agencies.

With the number of cases of suspected human trafficking reported to the Police having doubled between 2008 and 2011 (the latest available statistics), the report recognizes the importance of making sure that government agencies can coordinate their activities in support of the victims.

The report outlines in detail the current legislative requirements and administrative procedures used by the Swedish Migration Board to identify cases of human trafficking and how the cases are handled. This includes how social services, legal or guardianship support are coordinated and how the provision of different types of visas and repatriation services are handled.

An important part of the reports deals with the overlapping responsibilities of national, municipal and county authorities. For example, municipal authorities have responsibility for welfare issues, while national authorities such as the Migration Board have case management and other responsibilities.

There are, however, no formal referral mechanisms in Sweden for managing and coordinating human trafficking cases between different agencies at different levels of government. The report itself finds that those officers at the Swedish Migration Board responsible for human trafficking rely on their knowledge, training and experience to ensure that all the appropriate support is provided.

The report is a National Report as part of Sweden’s participation in the European Migration Network and, based on a template of questions, deals in considerable detail with how the different agencies with responsibilities in this area deal with the victims of human trafficking.

Making sure every victim of human trafficking gets the care and support they needs detailed and careful attention – from everyone.