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GRETA Annual report: COVID-19 is worsening human trafficking

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has published its 10th Annual General Report.

The report provides a detailed account of GRETA’s activities from 1 January to 31 December 2020, which include the publication of new guidance to help states meet their obligations under the Council of Europe’s 2005 anti-trafficking convention: a Guidance Note on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection and a Guidance Note on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation.

The report includes a dedicated section on the impact of COVID-19 on combating human trafficking and a further section on the identification of trafficked persons amongst asylum seekers and access to international protection by victims of trafficking. The Italian Ministry of the Interior, together with UNHCR, developed and published Guidelines for the identification of victims of trafficking among applicants for international protection and referral procedures in 2017, which were updated in January 2021.

As for the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on tackling human trafficking in Italy, the Italian government has been working closely with civil society actors to ensure that support structures remain functional and can be accessed by those affected, including victims of human trafficking. Due to the COVDI-19 emergency, the Department for Equal Opportunities decided to postpone the issuing of a new call for victim assistance project proposals and provided for an extension of all projects until 31 December 2020.

The report also contains evidence of hindered access to services in some countries, such as shelter and health care; thus, the likelihood of re-traumatisation or re-victimisation has increased. The pandemic has led, in particular, to a disruption in victim assistance and support services provided by NGOs.

The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is an independent body which monitors the way countries implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. So far, forty-six of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe are bound by the Convention, as well as Belarus, a non-member state.