August 29, 2016
Italy and Spain are two of the main destinations for Romanian victims of trafficking. The official data, as well as the experience of professionals, indicate the relevance of the phenomenon of trafficking in Italy as for girls and women of Romanian nationality.
Both Spanish and Italian anti-trafficking professionals report that, in recent years, trafficking originating from Romania is characterized by the age of the victims, that mainly in the recent years, accounts to a greater involvement of minors sexually exploited.
Regarding the accession of Romania to the EU, as related to trafficking, opinions differ, Italians have the clear idea that the adhesion of Romania to the European Union has changed the status of the victims in Italy, who are no longer third countries citizens (non-EU Member State), but European citizens, with obvious consequences not only on the conditions of entry and residence in Italy, but also on the methods of recruitment and exploitation used in the framework of the trafficking processes. The acquisition of the right to free movement within the EU has also influenced girls and women’s idea and perception of their migration project to Italy, aiming at escaping from poverty and discrimination. This has boosted the varied and complex character of migration flows to Italy and made the identification of a clear border between “voluntary” and “forced” migration more questionable. These changes lead from one side to a decrease in the number of victims of trafficking from Romania who apply and have access to the programs of protection and assistance managed by third sector organizations from the other to an increase of Romanian women and girls sexually exploited.
On the other side, interviewed Spanish professionals present different opinions: some believe that the accession of Romania to the EU facilitated trafficking. Others think it had a reverse effect, as the issue of irregular immigration, which is also how traffickers recruited potential victims, didn’t work anymore. In Spain, professionals also associate changes in trafficking patterns to changes in law enforcement practices, such as increased prosecution.
Professionals from both countries report similar features in recruitment. It is not criminal networks who directly recruit women but mainly persons belonging to the girls’ and women’s personal environment, trusted acquaintances and “fake boyfriends” acting as intermediary for the traffickers. Psychological elements are reported to play an important part in these recruitment patterns: trust for family members and infatuation and love relationships.
Recruitment and exploitation patterns are often based on affective relationships between the victim and the trafficker/exploiter, establishing ambiguous areas of negotiation and voluntariness between the recruiter/exploiter and the victim with limited or no use of violence, abuse and severe limitation of personal freedom and with less cases of severe violence, as compared to previous years.
Both Italy and Spain report a connection is also identified between the Romanian and Albanian criminality involved in trafficking for sexual exploitation, in the sense that Romanian women and girls are often exploited by Albanian men.