Effective Education for People Working with Vulnerable Persons – Course


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1B.Abuse and Exploitation of Migrants in Europe

People moving to different countries can find themselves in very vulnerable situations, especially those that are forced to migrate as a result of poverty, war or conflict. This information sheet gives some information and real life cases studies of abuse, exploitation and slavery of migrants travelling around Europe. The list covered is not extensive and should not be read in isolation. This information sheet is a brief overview of some main areas of abuse.

Human Trafficking

It is estimated that 2.7 million people are trafficked globally each year9. However very little is known about the true figures as human trafficking still remains a hidden crime. Many men, women and children are tricked and forced into exploitation such as forced labour, sexual exploitation, criminal activities or for organ removal. This is a very serious crime that is making its traffickers huge amounts of money. The victims are often left very traumatised. It is a crime which often goes unpunished, and many countries are not aware or equipped to respond to prosecute traffickers and protect victims.

Case Study – Nicu a child victim of trafficking (from ecpat.org.uk)

Nicu was born in a village in Romania. He lived with his younger brother and his parents. When he was nine his family were approached by a gang who said that they could get Nicu work around Europe. The family knew the gang; they were intimidating, but they had seen other members of community make money from working abroad. They wanted money for their future and there was not much work locally. They paid the gang €200 to smuggle Nicu into Europe. The gang told his parents that after Nicu worked off the rest of the debt for his travel and accommodation, they would receive lots of money in return.

Nicu was driven in a car to Spain where he was placed in a house with lots of other children. He met another boy Andre whom he had to work alongside and learn from. The following day Andre took him onto the streets and they had to beg for money. At the end of the day they took the money back to the house. The man who they were living with started hitting Andre saying he was lazy and hadn’t earned enough. They were not allowed any food that night.

In the following weeks Andre showed Nicu how to steal from people’s pockets and to take money from cash machines while people were using them – Nicu would distract them and then Andre would steal the money from the machine. Every day they would take the money back to the men at the house and they would get beaten if they did not think they made enough. After a few months, Nicu was flown into the

  1. He was taken to another house in East London where he was living with 14 other adults and children.

Nicu had to sleep downstairs on the floor. Again he went out on the streets all day stealing from people in London. He would often get chased by men and sometimes they would catch him and take their money back. Nicu was very scared. It was very cold and he was often very hungry and weak, but knew he had to carry on otherwise he would get in trouble.

Useful resources:

Anti Slavery International: antislavery.org

ECPAT International: ecpat.net

ECPAT UK: ecpat.org.uk

United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime: unodc.org

United Nations Children’s Fund: unicef.org


Forced Labour

Many adults and children are trafficked specifically for forced labour. In other cases migrants find themselves trapped in slave like conditions forced to work in very dangerous and under regulated industries.

This can include:

  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Fishing industry
  • Restaurants service industry
  • Factory and manufacturing
  • Sex industry

The International Labour Organisation estimates there are over 20 million people in forced labour worldwide. 18.7 million people are in forced labour in the private economy, exploited by individuals or enterprises. 4.5 million are in forced sexual exploitation, and 14.2 million in forced labour exploitation in activities such as agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing. 2.2 million work in state-imposed forms of forced labour, for example in prisons under conditions which violate ILO standards, or in work imposed by the state military or by rebel armed forces10.

Bararhaot Turaev’s story (from AntiSlavery.org)

“I was 16 years old and excited to start my final year of secondary school in Uzbekistan when I was told that I would have to either pick cotton for no pay, have my parents pay around US$235 or face expulsion.

“I did not want to spend three months picking cotton because I had heard that the conditions were terrible so I refused to go. I thought that that was the end of the issue but when I tried to enter the school I was informed that I had been expelled and would not be allowed to return to school.

“When my parents tried to contact the school administrators, they simply informed them that if they did not mobilise enough students then they would lose their jobs so I had to go pick cotton with the others.“

Useful Websites:

Anti Slavery International: antislavery.org

International Labour Organisation: ilo.org

United Nations Children’s Fund: unicef.org


Female Genital Mutilation – FGM

FGM is recognised as a violation of human rights and violence against women and girls. FGM is the act of deliberately altering or causing injury to the genital organs for non medical reasons. It is estimated that each year 180,000 women and girls in Europe are at risk of FGM11 . Although it may not be illegal in some countries, FGM is a criminal offence in all EU member states. Many women and young girls will flee a country due to the threat of FGM, which can be practiced for cultural or traditional reasons. It may also be that children living in Europe will be at risk.

Case studies from: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/documents/160205_fgm_europe_ enege_report_en.pdf

A ‘typical’ case would be a court case that took place in Italy in 2006. A woman of Nigerian origin was caught red-handed just about to perform the act on a baby in a house in Italy. The case regards a Nigerian woman, (G.O) who was caught while she was about to perform FGM for 300 euros against a 20-day-old girl. The telephone of (G.O) had been kept under surveillance and the criminal police tapped a call with the father of the infant concerning the operation. G.O. had been tailed and was arrested in the house


of the parents and arrested, in Verona. At the moment of the arrest she was equipped with all the surgical instruments required for the surgery (scissors, gauze, surgical spirit, Lycodine and syringes). This circumstance, together with the registration of the call, furnished the evidence of responsibility.

Forced Marriage

Forced marriage includes a marriage of someone or both parties without their consent. Often the term

Early Marriage is used for children under 18. It is estimated that child marriage affects 15 million girls every year12. Forced marriage is a human rights violation and often leads to violence and abuse. Many people, mainly women and girls, will flee a forced marriage, resulting in social isolation and threat of violence or death. 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married by their 18th birthday. This can end their chance of completing an education and puts them at greater risk of isolation and violence. For girls under 15 the incidence of early and forced marriage is 1 in 9. Some are married as young as 5 years old.

Victims of early and forced marriage typically have children very young. Approximately 70, 000 girls die in labour every year because their bodies are not ready for childbirth.

See more at: http://www.plan-uk.org/because-i-am-a-girl

Case Studies – Forced Marriage

“I’m in my last year of uni and dreading going back home in the summer. The only reason my parents allowed me to go to uni away from home was on the condition that I get married after I graduate. I agreed because I wanted to live away from home so much, but now, three years later, I have a great boyfriend and can’t imagine marrying a stranger.“My parents don’t know about my boyfriend, Paul, and would be furious if they did. He’s been really supportive but he can’t understand why my family are like this. My parents keep calling me, telling me about the boys they have seen, which ones they like, which ones they don’t like. I keep quiet because I don’t know what to say. I think they might suspect that I don’t want to get married because they keep telling me that it would be shameful not to marry at my age, that the whole family would reject me.

11http://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/eige-report-fgm-in-the-eu-and-croatia.pdf 12http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf

“I came to the UK two years ago to study. My parents are still back home. I was so excited about coming over here. I’d heard so much about the kind of freedom that young people can have and was really looking forward to experiencing it for myself.

“Two years later and it’s like I’ve always belonged here. I love to go out with friends, and being able to come and go as I like. Back home, the young people in my community don’t go out and socialise with the opposite sex at all because the community frowns upon it.”

Useful Websites:

Plan International: plan-international.org

Rights of Women: rightsofwomen.org.uk

Child Exploitation

Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in society. The very fact that they are children means they are more open to exploitation and abuse. Often the adults they are relying on to keep them safe are the ones which sell or harm them. Migrant children are often overlooked. They may be travelling with their parents who may be exploited or enslaved, resulting in the child also being enslaved. In many EU countries a child will be used to claim benefits and housing. The child will be passed around as a commodity. It is important to recognise the extra vulnerability of children and the special attention and care should be taken in identifying and supporting children.

Useful websites:

ECPAT International: ecpat.net

ECPAT UK: ecpat.org.uk

Save The Children International: savethechildren.org

United Nations Children’s Fund: unicef.org



This training manual is designed to be used by those who come into contact with vulnerable migrants. It aims to promote good practice in the identification and prevention of abuse and exploitation, including human trafficking, female genital mutilation and forced labour, whilst equipping those who use it with basic training skills. The exercises are developed from the lessons learnt and experience of ECPAT trainers. It is designed to be adapted and delivered easily without the need for extensive resources.




This manual is aimed at identifying people entering or living in a country where they were not born who are vulnerable to exploitation. It is important here to define which people we are targeting through this manual. These are short definitions which are explored further throughout the manual.


Asylum Seeker is someone who is fleeing persecution and has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR. http://rightsinfo.org/the-rights-in-the-european-convention/


Human Trafficking is the movement or harbouring of a person, through the use of force or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, typically for work, sexual exploitation, criminal purposes or organ removal.


For the full definition, refer to: UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, 2006. https://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/legislation-and-case-law-international-legislation-united-nations/united-nations-protocol-prevent_en


Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people or groups of individuals who have been forced to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of, or in order to avoid the effects of, armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters, and who have not crossed an international border.


Refugee is a person who ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’ (Definition quoted from the 1951 Refugee Convention) http://www.unhcr.org/uk/1951-refugee-convention.html


Third Country National (TCN) refers to individuals who are in transit and/or applying for visas in countries that are not their country of origin (i.e. country of transit), in order to go to destination countries that is likewise not their country of origin.