Statement on Commitments on the Legalization of the Status of Trafficked Persons (Tirana, 2002)




Legalisation of the Status of Trafficked Persons

The under-signed Government Ministers and State Representatives (hereinafter referred to as Signatories)

- recalling the commitments on combating trafficking in human beings contained in the Anti-trafficking Declaration of South Eastern Europe, signed in Palermo on 13 December 2000;

- bearing in mind the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Trans-national Organized Crime (15/11/2000), which obliges each State party to “consider adopting legislative or other appropriate measures” that permit trafficked persons “to remain in its territory, temporarily or permanently, in appropriate cases”;

- taking into consideration the Council of Europe’s Recommendation R(2000)11 on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation (19/5/2000), which calls on member States to grant victims “a temporary residence status in the country of destination ... in order to enable them to act as witnesses during judicial proceedings against offenders” and to provide victims during this period with social and medical assistance;

- reaffirming their commitment made in the OSCE Ministerial Council Decision No. 1, Enhancing the OSCE’s Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings(28/11/2000), to “consider adopting legislative and other measures, such as shelters, which permit victims to remain in their territories, temporarily or permanently, in appropriate cases”;

- aware of the Hague Ministerial Declaration on European Guidelines for Effective Measures to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Women for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation(26/4/1997), which recommends the introduction of a temporary residence status for victims during criminal proceedings, underlining that during this time they should have access to social, medical, financial and legal assistance;

1. Acknowledge their responsibility to address the problem of trafficking in human beings within the region in a cooperative and concerted way;

2. Recognise human trafficking as both a law enforcement and a human rights issue that calls for strategies which serve as an instrument against organised crime and safeguard the human rights of victims;

3. Affirm that the legalisation of the status of trafficked persons encourages them to cooperate with the investigation authorities and/or to testify;

4. Recognise that immediate repatriation of trafficked persons reduces the chances of obtaining information necessary to prosecute organised crime, thus playing into the hands of traffickers, frequently exposes victims to further acts of exploitation, prevents them from giving evidence in criminal proceedings and from exercising their rights to civil remedies;

5. Consent that a temporary residence permit forms a crucial element of any effective victim and witness protection strategy and will contribute to assist a greater number of trafficked persons who would otherwise not dare to seek refuge at a shelter or with the police for fear of deportation and rather stay in the country illegally;

6. Acknowledge that the provision of a temporary residence permit to trafficked persons will contribute to better prepare reintegration measures and prevent the re-trafficking of these persons who are often contacted and threatened again by traffickers;

The Signatories have agreed as follows:

- to improve identification of trafficked persons in order to rescue them from exploitation and assist and protect them;

- to refrain from immediately expelling possible victims of trafficking, due to their unlawful entry into the country and to irregular residence and/or labour status;

- to refer possible victims of trafficking to shelters, providing them with social assistance, health care, counseling and legal advice as to their situation and options;

- to entitle possible victims of trafficking to remain on the state’s territory and to grant them a recuperation period of up to 3 months during which they can stabilize and re-orientate themselves;

- to request the responsible authorities to investigate and establish the facts without delay in order to legalise the status of trafficked persons;

- to issue a temporary residence permit for victims of trafficking until the completion of legal proceedings, in the event the victim of trafficking is willing to testify, or whenever appropriate;

- to further develop witness protection programs;

- to take special measures in relation to the protection of trafficked children, such as the appointment of a guardian to ensure that actions taken are in the best interest of the child.

The Statement on Commitments shall not prejudice or affect the application of other bi-lateral or multi-lateral agreements currently in force or subsequently concluded by the Signatories.

Tirana, 11 December 2002