Prevention of human trafficking in Italy (TIP 2023)

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The government increased prevention efforts.  The DEO, as coordinator of the interagency steering committee on trafficking, was responsible for drafting Italy’s first-ever NAP (for the period 2022-2025), coordinating programs for prevention and victim assistance, and submitting a biannual anti-trafficking report.  The committee met twice in 2022.  The government remained without a national rapporteur to provide independent analysis of government efforts to combat human trafficking; NGOs urged the government to establish such a body.  Civil society reported that the DEO was not effective at steering and coordinating national anti-trafficking efforts.  NGOs urged the government to strengthen interagency coordination and partnership with civil society and to adopt a victim-centered approach.  While the government adopted an anti-trafficking NAP for 2022-2025, the NAP did not include:  a separate budget for federal ministries to implement the actions within it; a timeline for completion of action items; or a ministry designated with the authority to enforce its implementation.  The government did appoint a technical committee to monitor the assistance programs.  The inter-ministerial working group on labor exploitation, which focused on the agricultural sector and illicit labor brokers, met twice in 2022 and continued to implement its three-year plan (2020-2022) to combat labor exploitation in agriculture.  The working group carried out a survey on foreign workers living in informal encampments with limited access to basic services and promoted measures to guarantee housing and better living conditions.  The government focused awareness efforts on sectors where exploitation was common, including agriculture, and funded an international organization to provide cultural mediators to raise awareness of labor trafficking and exploitation among migrant workers.  In 2022, this collaboration resulted in the identification of 252 victims of labor exploitation, an unknown number of whom were labor trafficking victims.  The government did not report any national-level public awareness campaigns but funded local NGO-led efforts.

The government continued to provide funding to international organizations for anti-trafficking related projects, primarily in Africa.  The government continued to cooperate with Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and the Government of Libya to manage irregular migration from Libya.  However, many NGOs criticized this coordinated effort because it often resulted in the occupants of vessels identified in the Libyan search and rescue area being returned to Libyan shores; a March 2023 UN report cited severe security and human rights concerns inside Libya and Libyan detention centers – including sex and labor trafficking – for the more than 12,000 undocumented migrants forced to remain in the detention centers.  In March 2023, the government issued a decree aimed at addressing human trafficking and migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean.  The decree increased penalties on human traffickers and migrant smugglers and amplified channels for legal migration.  Experts and NGOs, however, expressed concern that it narrowed the range of individuals who qualify for special protection and exempted migrants rescued in certain conditions from some international protections, which could increase their vulnerability to trafficking and re-trafficking.

Labor inspectors did not have the authority to identify trafficking victims, but could refer them to police and NGOs; however, in 2022, the government did not report whether any labor inspectors did so.  Labor inspectors collaborated with international organizations to strengthen inspection and outreach efforts through the use of cultural mediators and local multidisciplinary task forces.  The government had a labor exploitation working group at the national level and local task forces in various regions to address labor exploitation.  Experts estimated that as many as 200,000 agricultural workers, especially seasonal workers, and 500,000 undocumented migrants were at risk of labor trafficking and exploitation in Italy.  In December 2022, the government adopted a decree intended to provide residence permits to an additional 82,570 foreign workers in 2023; experts expected many employers to use these permits to register informally employed migrant workers.  Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s war against Ukraine remained vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.  There were several documented cases of exploitation among the more than 170,000 Ukrainian refugees in Italy; in April 2022, police arrested a suspect for illegal cigarette production, involving the labor exploitation of several Ukrainian refugees.

Fraudulent labor recruitment and passport retention remained concerns.  Although illegal, employers or labor recruiters sometimes charged a placement fee to employees, which increased their risk of trafficking.  The government had a licensing and accreditation system for labor brokers and labor recruitment agencies.  However, there was a lack of regulation, including a licensing or accreditation system, and oversight on massage parlors, which remained likely locations for sex trafficking.  In 2022, the government continued efforts to hold labor recruiters accountable for illicit labor mediation by arresting 74 suspects (48 in 2021 and 67 in 2020), prosecuting 591 suspects (523 in 2021 and 271 in 2020), and convicting 171 criminals (163 in 2021 and 109 in 2020).  Illicit labor mediation did not meet the threshold for labor trafficking; however, law enforcement efforts in this sector helped prevent and reduce the demand for forced labor.  Authorities often arrested suspects for crimes that could potentially reach the threshold of labor trafficking.  In 2022, they investigated 1,170 recruiters “who provided workers to work for third parties under exploitative conditions, taking advantage of the workers’ state of need” and arrested 48 suspects.  GRETA recommended the government intensify efforts to screen for trafficking victims more effectively through increased labor inspections, expanded training of inspectors, and in monitoring of recruitment practices including in agriculture, domestic labor, hospitality, and food service.

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The law required businesses to submit reports on their actions to minimize the risk of forced labor and prohibited the purchase of products made with forced labor.  The DEO continued to operate its 24-hour hotline for victims of human trafficking, available in 12 languages, through a contract with the Veneto regional government.  In 2022, the hotline received 3,469 calls, of which 1,624 were relevant, a significant increase over 1,359 relevant calls in 2021 and 1,226 in 2020.  More than 59 percent of the relevant calls received in 2022 regarded cases of sexual exploitation, while the rest regarded labor exploitation.  Approximately 21 percent of all relevant calls came from potential trafficking victims, representing an 11 percent increase over 2021, and an 80 percent increase over 2020.  The Ministry of Labor maintained a digital platform to provide legal counseling and access to local services to victims of labor exploitation.  The government had a help desk dedicated to victims of labor exploitation, including trafficking; the help desk included a hotline, social media accounts, a website, and a chat function.  The government did not report national efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.  The government did not report making efforts to reduce the demand for participation in international sex tourism by its citizens and did not report further efforts regarding the two investigations initiated in 2020.

from 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – U.S. Department of State

2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – United States Department of State

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