Italy is a destination, transit, and source country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims subjected to trafficking in Italy often originate from Nigeria, Romania, Morocco, Tunisia, Moldova, Slovakia, Ukraine, China, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Poland, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Egypt, Somalia, Eritrea, and India. Victims are subjected to sex trafficking after accepting false promises of employment as, waitresses, dancers, singers, models, or caregivers. Men are subjected to forced labor through debt bondage in agriculture in southern Italy and in construction, house cleaning, hotels, and restaurants in the north of the country. Some employers blackmail and exploit seasonal agricultural workers, taking advantage of labor contract terms requiring the workers to remain in Italy; the farmers compel the migrants to work in poor conditions and move them from region to region. Children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Italy are from Romania, Nigeria, Brazil, Morocco, and Italy, specifically Roma and Sinti boys who may have been born in Italy. Transgender children from Brazil are subjected to sex trafficking in Italy. Experts estimate approximately 2,000 children are exploited on the streets in prostitution. Nigerian children and women are subjected to labor trafficking through debt bondage and coercion through voodoo rituals. Roma children from Italy are subjected to forced labor in begging or petty theft and sex trafficking. The December 2013 deaths of several workers highlighted an emerging form of labor trafficking: Chinese men and women are forced to work in textile factories in Milan, Prato, and Naples. Disabled victims of trafficking from Romania and Albania are subjected to forced begging by Romanian and Albanian transnational criminal networks. Men and women from Central Asia arriving in Italy through Russia, Turkey, and Greece are subjected to forced labor. Unaccompanied children, mainly boys from Bangladesh, Egypt, and Afghanistan, some of whom are employed in shops, bars, restaurants, and bakeries are at risk of trafficking.
The Government of Italy fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to vigorously investigate offenders and prosecute and convict defendants under the anti-trafficking law. The government’s anti-trafficking protection efforts, however, significantly decreased. Victim identification decreased by 77 percent. In the context of general budget cuts for social protection, Italian authorities reduced funding for trafficking victim protection and assistance by more than 60 percent.
Recommendations for Italy:
Restore funding levels to protect trafficking victims; increase efforts to identify victims of domestic trafficking, specifically among children within the country who are vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking; formalize victim identification and referral procedures for law enforcement and other officials, and ensure procedures are applied consistently; improve efforts to screen irregular migrants and asylum seekers to identify possible human trafficking victims and protect them from deportation that may contribute to re-trafficking; continue to fund victim protection and assistance services; increase funding to NGOs providing assistance and counseling to victims and increase presence of “street teams” to meet new victims; collect and disseminate disaggregated law enforcement data to demonstrate efforts to combat both sex trafficking and forced labor; regularly train law enforcement officials on victim identification; and establish an autonomous national rapporteur to enhance anti-trafficking efforts.
The Government of Italy continued to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Italy prohibits all forms of human trafficking though its 2003 Measures Against Trafficking in Persons law, which prescribes penalties of eight to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. In March 2014, the government enacted a decree implementing EU anti-trafficking directive 2011/36, including by extending the scope of human trafficking exploitation to include forced begging, forced criminal behavior, and forced organ removal. Authorities investigated 2,270 trafficking offenders in 2012, the most recent year for which law enforcement statistics were available, compared with 2,624 in 2011; prosecuted 354 defendants compared with 370 in 2011. In 2012, 135 traffickers were convicted, compared with 179 traffickers in 2011; and appeals courts affirmed the convictions of 121 defendants in 2012, compared with 109 in 2011. The average sentence imposed on convicted traffickers in 2011 was 6.5 years in prison; those convicted for exploitation of children in prostitution were sentenced to an average of 3.8 years’ imprisonment and a fine, and those convicted of slavery were sentenced to an average of 1.5 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government added new specialized training on victim identification and investigation of trafficking and exploitation into the regular curriculum for law enforcement agencies. In January 2014, Italian authorities carried out joint anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts with Moldovan counterparts. In June 2013, a Rome court convicted former Prime Minister Berlusconi for the commercial sexual exploitation of a Moroccan sex trafficking victim. There continued to be incidents of individual government officials involved in trafficking at a local level. To settle charges that he exploited a Brazilian domestic worker, in April 2013 an Italian consular officer and his wife pled guilty in California to a felony charge related to his unlawful possession of an identification document and agreed to pay restitution.
The Italian government’s anti-trafficking protection efforts sharply diminished and funding for victim protection and assistance significantly decreased. The government and NGOs assisted 447 foreign victims of trafficking during the reporting period compared with 2,018 in 2012. Thirty-two disabled adult victims, as old as 70 years of age, were identified as having been subjected to forced begging. The government granted 381 temporary residence permits to victims, compared with 466 in 2012; experts attributed some reduction in the grant of residency permits to an increase in Nigerian sex trafficking victims opting to apply for asylum. Victims were not required to cooperate with law enforcement to obtain a residence permit. The government provided victims with three-to-six months’ assistance, shelter for an additional 12 months, and reintegration assistance. Victims may obtain a subsequent work or study permit, which can lead to permanent residency, if they find employment or are enrolled in a training program through designated NGOs. Male victims were accommodated in specialized protected facilities run by NGOs, and were provided with employment training. Minor trafficking victims received an automatic residence permit until majority and were accommodated in separate centers. Services were provided by NGOs with funding provided by national, regional, and local authorities, and include both medical and physical assistance. Victims could leave the shelters unchaperoned and at will.
The government significantly decreased the amount of funding it allocated for trafficking victim protection and assistance, from the equivalent of approximately $11 million in 2012 to the equivalent of approximately $4 million in 2013. It extended anti-trafficking assistance programs approved in 2012 through 2013, but did not collect data on their implementation. For 2013, the government reapproved and assigned programs to NGOs, including counseling, health care, housing, legal advice, and training. Most national funding was disbursed through grants to NGOs. In an effort to offset the funding cuts, the government encouraged regions to plan interventions exclusively with the support of EU structural funds earmarked for social inclusion and employability of vulnerable workers. The government has reported the victim assistance budget for 2014 will be higher than it was in 2013. Matching funds and in-kind contributions of the equivalent of approximately $973,000 were guaranteed by local authorities. The law provided for the identification and transfer of victims placed under protective custody to NGOs that provided transition, reintegration, and repatriation services to victims. NGOs reported the referral process varied from region to region, both in terms of quality and procedure. According to NGOs, criteria for victim identification and guidelines for victim referral were not always applied consistently by local police. NGOs reported that some trafficking victims, especially among those who were also asylum seekers, may have passed through the system unidentified by officials. Moreover, the lack of sufficient funding to NGOs that provided assistance to victims resulted in a decreased presence of “street teams” to meet new victims and provide assistance and counseling. There were no reports of victims being punished for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. The government encouraged victims to assist voluntarily in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking, but did not require victim cooperation as a precondition to obtain temporary residence permits. Victims who were material witnesses in a court case against a former employer were allowed to obtain other employment.
The Government of Italy sustained anti-trafficking prevention efforts in 2013 by continuing to operate an active hotline for victims of trafficking, but it did not implement new national public awareness programs. Local authorities, in cooperation with NGOs, continued to update and distribute materials on a regular basis, including brochures, posters, bumper stickers and media advertisements that provided information on assistance to victims. The government regularly updated a manual for law enforcement officers on trafficking laws and best practices for assisting victims. The government coordinated an interagency working group to generate guidelines and procedures for victim identification and referral, as part of the creation of the national plan. The government postponed publication of the plan until 2014 due to limited funds available for assistance in 2013. The government worked with NGOs to coordinate and implement anti-trafficking initiatives, but, unlike in prior years, did not conduct any evaluations in 2013. In cooperation with municipalities, police, social services, and NGOs carried out local education campaigns aimed at reducing the demand for prostitution. The ministry of foreign affairs implemented regular training programs for diplomatic officers deployed abroad and included modules on the prevention of trafficking in persons. The government did not publish a systematic evaluation of its anti-trafficking efforts. In 2013, Italian authorities investigated 281 illegal labor recruiters; unscrupulous labor recruiting can facilitate human trafficking. The government did not report any convictions for child sex tourism. The Italian armed forces continued to provide anti-trafficking training to civilians and military personnel before their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.