RIGA 13 AND 14 MAY 2014
Andrea Vonkeman
UNHCR Bureau for Europe
The story of Amah and her child
Amah is a young Nigerian women who claims she has been abused
since she was a young girl by her stepmother, going by the name
‘’Mama P’’,
Mama P is a well known trafficking ringleader, with good connections
in Italy
Amah lived with her foster mother from the age of 10 and was made
to work as a prostitute from the age of 15. Amah tells that she would
be beaten up if she did not earn enough money.
One girl who tried to leave the prostitution ring run by Mama P was
poisoned by mama P (according to Amah)
She left Nigeria in 2008 and ended up in Ivory Coast where she
worked as a prostitute for a few months as instructed by ‘’Mama P’’
The story of Amah and her child
In 2009 she went to Tunis where she briefly worked as a street prostitute,
until she met a man, (not a trafficker according to Amah) with whom she
eventually came to Europe and arrived via Spain to Italy.
She stayed only briefly in Italy and applied for asylum in a Nordic
Despite the fear she expressed for the life of herself and her child at the
hands of Mama P, in the event of return, her asylum request was denied.
 Available COI looks into existing laws in Nigeria rather than actual practice
(including enforcement) and does not consider capacity for support for
returned VoT, stigmatisation (voodoo), ostracism, risk of re-trafficking,
 The decision also dids not consider past persecution (exposure to systematic
violence from a very young age, forced prostitution and subsequently
Trafficking may amount to persecution
Inherent in the trafficking experience are forms of
severe exploitation incl. :
 abduction, incarceration, rape, sexual enslavement,
forced prostitution, forced labour, removal of organs,
physical beatings, starvation, the deprivation of
medical treatment.
Such acts constitute serious violations of human
rights which will generally amount to persecution
Risk of reprisals or re-trafficking may
amount to persecution
VoT may face reprisals or possible re-trafficking if returned
E.g., cooperation with the authorities in the COA or COO in
investigations may give rise to a risk of harm from the traffickers
upon return, particularly if the trafficking has been perpetrated by
international trafficking networks.
Reprisals by traffickers could amount to persecution if the acts
feared involve serious human rights violations or other serious
Reprisals could affect the victim’s family members, which could
render a fear of persecution on the part of the victim well-founded,
even if she or he has not been subjected directly to such reprisals.
Re-trafficking would usually amount to persecution
Ostracism, discrimination or punishment
amounting to persecution
Victim may also fear ostracism, discrimination or punishment by
the family and/or the local community or by the authorities upon
Particularly relevant in the event of prostitution.
In the individual case, severe ostracism, discrimination or punishment
may rise to the level of persecution, in particular if it is aggravated
by trauma suffered during, and as a result of, the trafficking
Even if the ostracism from, or punishment by, family or community
members does not rise to the level of persecution, such rejection by,
and isolation from, social support networks may in fact heighten
the risk of being re-trafficked or of being exposed to retaliation,
which could then give rise to a well-founded fear of persecution.
Compelling reasons may lead to grant of
refugee status
Trafficking experience of the asylum applicant may be a one-off
past experience, which is not likely to be repeated
However, person may be a refugee if there are compelling reasons
arising out of previous persecution
E.g. where the persecution suffered during the trafficking
experience, even if past, was particularly atrocious and the
individual is experiencing ongoing traumatic psychological effects,
which would render return to the country of origin intolerable.
For reasons of… link with one (or more) of the
1951 Convention grounds
Some ethnic or religious groups could e.g. be targeted by traffickers
(already marginalised groups)
Women are an example of a social subset of individuals who are
defined by innate and immutable characteristics and are frequently
treated differently to men.
As such, they may constitute a particular social group.
Factors which may distinguish women as targets for traffickers are
generally connected to their vulnerability in certain social settings;
therefore certain social subsets of women may also constitute
particular social groups.
Particular social group
Men or children or certain social subsets of these groups may also
be considered as particular social groups.
Examples of social subsets of women or children could, e.g. be
single women, widows, divorced women, illiterate women, raped
women, women with children born out of wedlock, separated or
unaccompanied children, orphans or street children.
The fact of belonging to such a particular social group may be one
of the factors contributing to an individual’s fear of persecution
Former victims of trafficking may also be considered as constituting
a social group based on the unchangeable, common and historic
characteristic of having been trafficked.
Risk profiles in EU asylum systems
Persons in need of international protection / refugees
smuggled out of country of origin / first asylum who fall prey to
trafficking in transit countries &/or in Europe
Persons who were not in need of international protection and
were smuggled out of country of origin and fall prey to
trafficking in transit countries &/or in Europe and fear return
because of trafficking experience
Persons trafficked into Europe [EU] who escaped their
trafficker(s) and seek international protection [in another EU MS
and who become subject to Dublin transfer]
Who are we talking about and what may
happen to them?
Victims of trafficking forced into asylum system by traffickers and who
present claims lacking in credibility
Victims of trafficking who are not in need of international protection
but whose only access to protection is through the asylum system
Vulnerable asylum-seekers in EU asylum reception centres (or homeless)
targeted by traffickers and who are at risk of trafficking
Unaccompanied and separated children on the move across the EU - in
asylum reception centres or not (victims or at risk of trafficking)
Victims of trafficking in need of international protection but outside
asylum system and not advised about right to seek asylum/allowed
to access asylum (children on the move)
EU Asylum acquis
Special procedural safeguards
Recital 29: Some applicants in need of special procedural
guarantees due to i.a. age, gender,… or as a consequence of
torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or
sexual violence
Art. 24 - Applicants in need of special procedural guarantees
Obligation to identify applicants in need of special procedural
guarantees within reasonable period of time after an application
[art 24.1]
 Adequate support including sufficient time (no acceleration) to
benefit from rights and comply with obligations APD [ Art. 24.3]
Special procedural needs also addressed if apparent at later
stage [Art. 24.4]
Art.10(3) - Requirements for the examination of
(d) Possibility to seek advice from experts on particular
issues, such as medical, cultural, religious, child-related or
gender issues
Art.15(3) - Requirements for a personal interview:
(a) Personnel competent to take account of personal and
general circumstances surrounding application, incl.
applicant’s vulnerability
(b) and (c) Same-sex interviewer and interpreter wherever
Guarantees for minors (article 6.3)
In assessing
the best
interests of
the child,
States shall
with each
other and
take due
account of
the following
(a) family reunification possibilities;
(b) the minor’s well-being and social
(c) safety and security considerations,
in particular where there is a risk of the
minor being a victim of human
(d) the views of the minor, in accordance
with his or her age and maturity.
Victims of trafficking who are asylum
Chap. IV – Provisions for vulnerable persons
Art.21: Take into account specific situation of vulnerable
persons i.a. victims of trafficking
(1) obligation to conduct individual assessment to identify
whether special reception needs and indicate the nature of
Obligation to initiate within reasonable period of time after
(4) Assessment shall be without prejudice to assessment of
international protection needs
 Art 23: assessment of risk of trafficking for UAM (reception)
Holistic and Human Rights
Asylum acquis and victim
protection regime
in Europe
EU Anti-Trafficking Directive & Asylum acquis
Obligation to identify victims (ATD) and RCD and APD
Mechanisms for early identification of victims (not asylum
applications) ATD
Standard of proof : “reasonable grounds” (Art 11 ATD)
Expert advice – with relevant support organisations (APD, ATD)
Same-sex interviewer and interpreter wherever possible
Competent (regularly trained) personnel (APD, ATD)
Prevent secondary victimisation (detention, many interviews
etc.) (ATD)
Individual needs assessment without prejudice to assessment of
international protection needs
Proper reception and support (guardian, counselling, safety)
Effective identification of child victims
of human trafficking
Need for effective coordination between national and local agencies,
(asylum authorities and child protection services, with National Referral
Mechanisms that support the early identification of (potential) victims and
their referral to assistance and protection, and if necessary, to asylum
Officials should be trained to identify among unaccompanied children
those children who may be in need of international protection.
Clear and swift processes for referring (potential) child victims of
trafficking by those who may first come into contact with them – border
guards, police, health workers – to the child protection system, so that these
children have immediate access to a guardian as well as appropriate
services and protection.
Evidentiary Matters & Victim Identification
Low threshold approach for identification “reasonable
ground” (ATD)
Standard of proof: NOT “beyond reasonable/any
doubt” – Not appropriate for asylum adjudication
Art.4(1) EU QD - “duty to substantiate” - NOT a matter of
“proof” or search for truth
Shared duty to substantiate application (esp. re. children)
Applicant’s statements = primary and may be only source
of evidence
Lack of (reliable) documentary evidence
Individual, Objective and Impartial
Other factors to take into account:
 Impact
of feelings of shame, stigma, fear of reprisals on selfidentification & (late) disclosure
 Frailty of human memory, effect of emotion on memory
 Interviewer/Decision-Maker’s thinking processes,
assumptions, expectations, misconceptions
• Factors span disciplinary fields of neurobiology, psychology,
anthropology, sociology, cultural & gender studies – Multidisciplinary approach
Training: Knowledge, Skills, Attitude/Awareness
UNHCR “Beyond Proof –
Credibility Assessment in EU Asylum Systems”
Report & Checklists
available at: UNHCR Refworld
Forthcoming: ‘’The heart of the matter’’; CREDO II on assessing credibility in
child asylum claims
UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection No. 7: The Application of Article
1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of
Refugees to Victims of Trafficking and Persons At Risk of Being Trafficked, 7
April 2006, HCR/GIP/06/07, available at: