Conference on harmonising anti trafficking practices in the Baltic Sea Region

Council of the Baltic Sea States Task Force against Trafficking in Human beings (CBSS TF-THB) and the Ministry of the Interior and Administration of Poland held the conference in the Mercure Warszawa Centrum Hotel, WarsawPoland on 26 – 27 November 2019.

It was the final event of the transnational project “Paving the Way for the Harmonized Operational Framework in the Baltic Sea Region (HOF-BSR)” and it aimed to launch the main results of the HOF-BSR project, namely the Transnational Referral Mechanism of the Baltic Sea Region, the  Human Trafficking Glossary and the Guidelines for Journalists reporting on cases of human trafficking as well as to share good practices with partners and authorities.

The conference gathered around 70 government officials, representatives of non – governmental and international organisations, national coordinators and rapporteurs, law enforcement officials, social services and other stakeholders from the CBSS Member States and beyond who work with human trafficking issues on an operative as well as a strategic level.

The conference was opened by Jarosław Marek Boguszyński, Director of the Department for Analysis and Migration Policy at the Ministry of the Interior and Administration of Poland, who emphasised the importance of the topic of the conference and stated that prevention of human trafficking is one of the top priorities of the Ministry of Interior and Administration of Poland. He was followed by Ambassador Michał Czyż, Polish member of the Committee of Senior Officials of the CBSS, who underlined the fact that pan-Baltic challenges require a response at the regional level and that the CBSS holds a unique position as the core inter-governmental organisation in the area. Following the introductory statements, Vineta Polatside, Senior Advisor and Head of the TF-THB unit at the CBSS, presented the HOF-BSR project and the main outcomes of the project: the Transnational Referral Mechanism (TRM), the Human Trafficking Glossary and the guidelines “Media and Trafficking in Human beings”.

See more moments from the conference here.

The first day started with the panel “Setting the scene: Existing operational tools for transnational cooperation”, opened by Jennifer Croft, Deputy Head of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), who presented the work that ODIHR had done in the area of National Referral Mechanisms and informed about the ongoing update of the ODIHR handbook on National Referral Mechanisms. Petya Nestorova, Executive Secretary of GRETA, Council of Europe spoke about the necessary elements of an effective Transnational Referral Mechanism and how it could be used as a tool of international cooperation between the country of origin and the country of destination. Professor Zbigniew Lasocik from Warsaw University discussed the issue of whether a Transnational Referral Mechanism in the Baltic Sea region could be launched ahead of its time as many countries in the region still lack functional National Referal Mehcnisms. Elena Petreska, Project Officer at the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), presented the work of ICMPD in the area of Transnational Referral Mechanisms and underlined the fact that the aim of creating one should be to add value to the existing national systems through connecting and finding linkages between the systems.

The second panel was on the topic of “Communication or confusion – Speaking the same language about human trafficking” and focused on the terminology of human trafficking. Professor Ryszard Piotrowicz of Aberystwyth University informed about how language can be misunderstood and manipulated and underlined that clear language is a necessary requirement for a common understanding of central terms and ideas. Anniina Jokinen, Senior Programme Officer at the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI), discussed the differing terminology when talking about human trafficking for labour exploitation and presented the FLOW project which aims to analyse the business model of labour trafficking.

During the last panel of the first day: “Do Transnational Referral Mechanisms work? Reality vs. expectations”, speakers addressed different issues related to the concrete implementation of Transnational Referral Mechanisms. In the first presentation of the panel, Klaus Vanhoutte, Director at Payoke – a non-governmental organization that fights labour trafficking in Belgium – underlined the importance of trust between different actors in the national system and discussed the difficulties of providing assistance to victims who had been identified in a country different from the country where the victim had been subject to exploitation. Jan Austad, Specialist Director on Human Trafficking in the Ministry of Justice and Public Security in Norway presented the Norwegian assistance system and the cooperation between Norwegian authorities and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Norway in returning victims to their country of origin. Mircea Mocanu, Head of Office at IOM Romania, discussed the role of IOM in working as a bridge between countries of destination and countries of origin and encouraged states to make use of the assistance that it could provide in the referral process. Sanne Ringtved, Social Worker at the Danish Centre against Human Trafficking (CMM), presented the work of the CMM in providing assistance to victims and underlined the importance of cooperation with NGOs and national authorities in the victims´ countries of origin. Sara Olsson, County Coordinator against Human Trafficking in Sweden, spoke about her role and how she works with stakeholders in other countries to ensure safe return of victims.

The second day of the conference was focused around the theme of media and human trafficking. The first panel: “Mass media framing of human trafficking in the Baltic Sea Region” discussed how stories of human trafficking were portrayed in media in the Baltic Sea Region. Maria Brus Pedersen, journalist from Denmark, presented the results of a study on media framing of human trafficking in Denmark, noting that there had been a shift of focus in the media narrative from bodies to borders. Terhi Tafari, Senior Advisor at the National Assistance System for Victims of Trafficking in Finland, presented the findings of a similar study conducted in Finland, which showed that stories in the media rarely depicted the broader context of a case of human trafficking. Vera Gracheva, President of the NGO Alternative, presented the Russian study and underlined that though there were good examples of analytical articles that covered all aspects of the human trafficking phenomena, these did not appear often enough. Elena Petreska, Project Officer at the International Center for Migration Policy Development, presented the ”Media and Trafficking in Human Beings Guidelines” developed by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and discussed the main considerations that journalists should keep in mind when writing stories on human trafficking.

The second panel was on “The role of mass media in counteracting human trafficking from different standpoints”Gunnar Thorenfeldt, journalist at Dagbladet in Norway, gave an overview of his working methods with victims of human trafficking and emphasised that the role of journalists is different than that of those providing assistance to victims. Terhi Tafari, Senior Advisor at the National Assistance System for Victims of Trafficking in Finland, spoke about the balance between giving victims their own voice and avoiding any potentially negative consequences which an appearance in media could have for the victim. Melissa O’Gorman, Media and Communications Officer at Derbyshire Constabulary, discussed how the police could work with media to raise awareness on human trafficking issues and presented the work of Derbyshire Constabulary in this regard.

The last speaker of the conference was Lāsma Stabina, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator at the Ministry of Interior in Latvia, who, under the headline “Next steps forward”, presented past and future projects of the CBSS Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-THB).

The organisers would like to express special thank you to all the speakers and moderators for their contributions and also to all the participants for their active engagement and sharing their views.