Human trafficking in Italy
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Italy is a destination and transit country for women, children, and men trafficked transnationally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and children are trafficked mainly from Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Albania, and Ukraine but also from Russia, South America, North and East Africa, the Middle East, China, and Uzbekistan. Chinese men and women are trafficked to Italy for the purpose of forced labor. Roma children continue to be trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced begging. Reportedly, an increasing number of victims are trafficked for labor, mostly in the agricultural sector. According to one NGO, 90 percent of foreign seasonal workers are unregistered and two-thirds are in Italy illegally, rendering them vulnerable to trafficking. The top five source countries for agricultural workers are Romania, Pakistan, Albania, and Ivory Coast. Traffickers reportedly are moving victims more frequently within Italy, often keeping victims in major cities for only a few months at a time, in an attempt to evade police detection.
The Government of Italy fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government aggressively prosecuted and convicted traffickers and continued to implement its progressive victim-centered approach for the rescue, reintegration, and repatriation of trafficking victims in Italy.
The Government of Italy continued its strong law enforcement efforts in 2007. Italy prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through its Measures Against Trafficking in People law of 2003, which prescribes penalties on conviction of between eight and twenty years’ imprisonment. These penalties are considered sufficiently stringent and are comparable with those prescribed for forcible sexual assault. The government’s 2006 legislation to expand its labor trafficking law and introduce new penalties for job recruiters remains in draft form.
In a major case in April 2007, the courts sentenced four Italians and three Romanian human traffickers to between three and 12 years’ imprisonment after they were convicted for the forced prostitution and exploitation of 200 Roma children between 2004 and 2006. In June 2007, the government prosecuted eight other perpetrators on charges of sexually exploiting children by coercing them into performing sexual acts in exchange for small gifts. Government investigations resulting from the previously reported large-scale anti-trafficking crackdown, “Operation Spartacus,” between October 2006 and January 2007, are reported to be still ongoing. In 2007 Italian prosecutors launched trafficking investigations against 1,202 individuals, prosecuted 80 trafficking cases, and the courts convicted 163 traffickers in. The average sentence was four years. The government reported that most traffickers remain in detention during the criminal proceedings. For sentences of more than two years, defendants are not eligible for suspended sentences. The government continued its prosecution of 19 traffickers from a 2006 case involving the trafficking of 113 Polish tomato pickers in Apulia who were exploited in forced labor conditions, and planned to begin to prosecute an additional four perpetrators in early 2008. After local Italian police were initially slow to respond, prosecutors and Carabinieri vigorously investigated allegations of official complicity when notified and found no evidence to support the allegations.
The Italian government sustained strong efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. Article 18 of the anti-trafficking law allows authorities to grant residence permits and provide protection and job training services to victims of trafficking, and during the reporting period the government expanded Article 18 benefits to labor trafficking victims. The government allocated $3.75 million in 2007 for an additional emergency assistance plan and approved 23 projects implemented by NGOs. During the reporting period, it earmarked approximately $9.75 million for 65 victim assistance projects, although the government did not provide data on the number of trafficking victims who benefited from these projects or the number who entered social protection programs. In 2007, NGOs, with government funding, provided literacy courses for 588 victims and vocational training for 313, helped 436 find temporary jobs and 907 find permanent jobs. In 2007, the Ministry of Interior issued 1,009 residence permits to victims who assisted in a law enforcement investigation. The government also ensured the responsible return of 62 foreign trafficking victims in 2007 by funding their repatriation and reintegration and providing money for resettlement in their home countries. During the reporting period, the government implemented systematic procedures for victim identification among vulnerable populations in Italy. Despite the government’s efforts to identify all victims of trafficking, some, such as Nigerian women in commercial sexual exploitation, are still deported. Based on a 2006 independent commission report that its victim identification measures for immigrants arriving in boats from North Africa are not fully effective, the government reportedly improved its process for identifying trafficking victims and it now allows international organizations and NGOs to inspect detention facilities and to interview migrants. Victims who file complaints against traffickers usually do not face penalties for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. In 2007, the government enacted guidelines for the identification of victims of forced labor and promoted four regional studies on victims of labor exploitation.
The Government of Italy continued to educate the Italian public about trafficking through its funding of NGO awareness efforts, and it initiated a new ad campaign in 2007 that included TV spots, internet banners, and bumper stickers in various languages. In March 2007, the Ministry of Interior established a committee designed to improve oversight and prosecution of trafficking and invited NGOs into the policy making process by including their membership on this committee. The Ministry of Interior is in the planning stage of a public awareness campaign, with several other countries, to reduce demand for commercial sex acts and raise awareness about human trafficking called project Pentametro. The Italian Ministry of Defense reported regularly organizes training sessions on human rights and trafficking for both civilians and military personnel who serve in international peacekeeping missions abroad. The government contributed funding to the NGO ECPAT, which conducts child sex tourism prevention activities in Italy. In February 2007, police arrested a University professor in Naples for committing child sex tourism offenses while in Thailand.