28 September 2018, Vienna

International Round Table Vienna 2018

“Human Trafficking in the Digital Age”

At this year’s International Round Table Vienna (#IRTvienna) on “Human Trafficking in the Digital Age”, hosted by Helga Konrad, international experts, practitioners, researchers and stakeholders analysed and discussed various issues and solutions related to the interplay between ‘new’ technology, trafficking and anti-human trafficking. The event was organised by the ‘Regional Implementation Initiative on Preventing & Combating Human Trafficking’ in cooperation with Act.Now.

Opening this year’s discussion, Brigitte Luggin, Head of Communication of the Representation of the EU Commission in Austria, emphasised that the event “helps to raise awareness of the problem of human trafficking many countries face and shows what the EU can do.” From various perspectives the participants of the Round Table reflected the impact of the digital revolution and the upcoming new technologies on the complex crime of human trafficking and exchanged current findings in the field and practical solutions, which are already implemented.

Vulnerability of children especially at our borders

The “digital age” brings change to the vicious business of human trafficking as well as to the situation of its victims. Catrin Neumüller, CEO of Act.Now, pointed out the increasing dangers to the young generation. “Children are especially vulnerable to being contacted in a digital way by human traffickers and of being abused.” Especially at the EU-borders children are at risk, but only 5% of embassy or consular staff took specific measures when they suspected a possible case of child abduction during visa application procedure. “In order to profile potential victims of human trafficking there is a need for trainings for service providers in the visa process and for border officers to raise awareness.” stated Ann-Charlotte Nygard, who represented the European Fundamental Rights Agency.

(Rewatch the panel discussion of the International Round Table Vienna 2018)

The dark side of the digital age

The digital age has a big impact on the modi operandi of human trafficking: Former National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking in the Netherlands and Candidate for the Position of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator on Human Trafficking of the OSCE, Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, noted that “there is an economic trend towards ordering online, and this is no different for prostitution.” Kristiina Kangaspunta, UNODC’s Head of Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, added that compared to “years ago, where human trafficking was happening on the streets and other physical places”, human trafficking isn’t that evident anymore. Radu Cucos, Assistant Officer on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings at the OSCE, stated that the use of technology makes it cheap in terms of effort and financial costs to enter the human trafficking industry and to recruit victims.

New potential of new technologies

Nevertheless, almost all experts, also see new opportunities in the change to digital. Sometimes the organisation combating human trafficking lag behind the traffickers. So Radu Cucos appalled “We can use the same tools traffickers use to find victims to uncover criminal activities, such as using chat bots posing as minors to expose sex buyers.” A good example for an initiative using new technologies in their aim of preventing human trafficking is the multilanguage application “SAFE”, developed by IOM Slovakia. It provides decent information to those who think about working abroad. “Go but go safely.” The goal of the application #SAFE is to encourage knowledge about human trafficking, not discourage migration itself, explicates Zuzana Vatralova, Head of IOM Office Bratislava.

About the International Round Table

The International Round Table on Human Trafficking and Anti-Human Trafficking is a platform of exchange on expertise provided for experts, who are active in the field of combating and preventing the complex crime of human trafficking. The periodically International Round Tables are initiated and hosted by Helga Konrad, Director of the Regional Implementation Initiative on Preventing and Combating all Forms of Human Trafficking, at the Haus der Europäischen Union. Since 2017, Act.Now has been cooperation partner of the International Round Table Vienna.

Find more information on the website of the Regional Implementation Initiative on Preventing and Combating all Forms of Human Trafficking.

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