Meet Alicia. At 16, she took a trip from Africa to Greece to receive medical treatment. Upon her arrival, her dad’s friend took her passport and ID and locked her in an apartment with a woman she did not know. After the woman attacked her, Alicia learned that her dad’s friend sold her into prostitution. Alicia was one of the estimated 40,000 victims of human trafficking in Greece for prostitution. Fortunately, Alicia escaped the apartment and received the medical attention she desperately needed along with safety and shelter. Thanks to the shelter, Alicia became a legal citizen of Greece within a year and found a job.
What is Human Trafficking?
Alicia is one of the millions of women, men and children who become trafficking victims across the world each year. Human trafficking is the illegal trade of people to acquire labor or commercial sex. Victims of human trafficking are often economically and socially marginalized. Traffickers take advantage of their vulnerability and use force and deception to set traps, such as faulty jobs and romantic relationships.
Human Trafficking in Greece
Human trafficking in Greece has become the country’s top crime over the years for many reasons. For starters, trafficking data has significantly increased due to standardized data collection and reporting. Also, Greece has the 11th longest coastline globally, making it popular for organized crime groups. The coast borders many parts of Europe, Asia and Africa and is a fitting transit and destination location. In 2018, the organization A21 estimated that there were 89,000 victims of human trafficking in Greece and over half were victims in the sex trade.
The majority of traffickers in Greece are Greek. Meanwhile, most sex trafficking victims are women and children, and labor victims are men and children. The most trafficked victims in Greece are migrants and asylum-seekers who depend on smuggling and forced labor.
Human trafficking is unlawful and punishable at the state, federal and international levels. Greece’s response to human trafficking currently ranks at Tier 2. According to the U.S. Department of State, a country that falls in Tier 2 lacks the minimum standards for addressing human trafficking. The U.S. Department of State has prioritized several recommendations for Greece, many of which A21 is already pioneering.
A21 Fights Human Trafficking in Greece
A21 is a global anti-human trafficking organization that has the mission “to end slavery.” Since its launch in 2008, A21 has nearly one survivor enter its care every four days. In 2019, A21 rescued and secured freedom for hundreds of victims and won 20 trafficking lawsuits. This is impressive as prosecution numbers for human trafficking are small. For example, in 2019, the Greek government only prosecuted 25 defendants. If all A21’s lawsuit victories occurred in Greece, every three out of four cases would have ended with justice.
A21 currently has two offices in Greece, one in Athens and one in Thessaloniki. As mentioned, A21 has initiated many efforts to eradicate human trafficking in Greece. All of these efforts address the U.S. Department of State’s “prioritized recommendations,” significantly improving identification measures and restitution.
A21 Greece has significantly increased victim identification efforts in the country including training first-responders, judges, prosecutors and law enforcement, etc. A21 Greece provides presentations, awareness programs and campaigns about human trafficking, how to identify signs and reduce risk.
A21 Greece works with Greek authorities to secure survivors’ safety and justice that enter their care. This collaboration formed Greece’s national hotline for human trafficking, Line 1109. A21 Greece also provides legal assistance and resources for victims.
Although the U.S. Department of State did not recommend implementing restoration and rehabilitation programs for victims, A21 in Greece already has a headstart. A21 Greece has holistic care and support services such as the Guesthouse of A21 and A21 Greece Freedom Center. The Guesthouse of A21 is a short-term hostel for rescued victims. The A21 Greece Freedom Center is long-term housing, providing survivors with resources and support to become fully independent. Some services include counseling, job searching and vocational skills training.
Let Freedom Ring!
On Thursday, November 12, 2020, another victim of human trafficking in Greece entered freedom. Like many other victims, someone she trusted tricked her into sexual exploitation. Thanks to Line 1109, A21 Greece’s sponsored human trafficking hotline, the authorities intervened and brought her to safety. Now she is receiving the necessary care and support and representation in court.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, with over 40 million enslaved victims. Governments around the globe are working diligently to improve eradication efforts. However, they cannot do it alone. Organizations like A21 have immense resources, training and services that aid in rescuing and restoring victims.
– LaCherish Thompson