The Malta Independent 26 September 2021, Sunday

Victims’ voices lead the way

Sunday, 1 August 2021, 10:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

United Nations World Day against Trafficking Persons

Marcela Loaiza, a victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation said that "being a survivor of trafficking in persons is like having a tattoo on the soul. No one can see it, but it is always there and remains forever".

The theme of this year's UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons, marked annually on 30 July, Victims' Voices Lead the Way, underlines the importance of listening to and learning from survivors like Marcela.

Many broadly understand human trafficking as a vicious crime that violates the human rights of its victims. Perhaps few are aware that it consists of the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.


Men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds can become victims of this transnational crime. Traffickers often control their victims through physical and sexual abuse, blackmail, emotional manipulation and the removal of official documents. Exploitation can occur in a victim's home country, during migration or in a foreign country.

Human trafficking has many forms. These include exploitation in the sex, entertainment, domestic work and hospitality industries or even forced marriages. Victims are forced to work in factories, on construction sites or in the agricultural sector without pay or with an inadequate salary, living in fear of violence and often in inhumane conditions. Some victims are tricked or coerced into having their organs removed. Children are forced to serve as soldiers or commit crimes for the benefit of criminals.

Crisis Intervention counsellors reveal the difficulty in engaging and supporting individual victims - 85% of their clients see their trafficker as their "boyfriend". The majority do not want to leave their situation and deny or do not understand that they are being trafficked.

If they do choose to flee, Crisis Intervention counsellors are there to ensure that everything is set up for them. It is fundamentally unfair to ask a victim to leave their trafficker without being able to meet all their basic needs.

Survivors speak of the trauma of being forced to work in an abusive environment, and stress the necessity of becoming self-sufficient by obtaining a job that they can feel safe working in. Pathways to academic opportunities can help survivors reintegrate into society, become economically independent and ultimately, liberated. Such personal development significantly reduces their vulnerability to re-exploitation.

However, free education is still not provided in many countries, and many survivors cannot afford to further their education. Many accumulate medical debts from the care they needed because of what they had endured. Often survivors feel that they can use their experiences of human trafficking to help others, becoming therapists, anti-human trafficking activists and educators. 

The sheer complexity of the crime of trafficking in human beings necessitates a comprehensive approach between the various stakeholders committed to fighting this phenomenon.

Local measures and initiatives must be implemented, ranging from law enforcement and victim service provision, to awareness raising and diplomatic pressure. The Human Rights Directorate is currently conducting an intensive study on the 3P Paradigm of Prosecution, Prevention and Protection. This model provides a framework to combat human trafficking, applied in several legal instruments including the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

This research explores the main causes of human trafficking, including the social differences that make a person vulnerable to exploitation, analyses the definition of human trafficking under the Criminal Codes (Chapter 9 of Maltese Law) and closely examines domestic case law to identify the elements of this offence.

International cooperation must also be enhanced. Particularly essential is closer collaboration with non-EU countries, through partnership agreements and external policy instruments, cooperation tools and funding, in order to share information and criminal intelligence on trafficking, related crimes and criminal networks.


Human Rights Directorate and Commission on Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence

  • don't miss