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Handling Cases of Victims of Trafficking which require transnational cooperation in the European Union

By März 31, 2023No Comments

Asylum seekers at risk for further human rights violations under the Dublin Regulations


The Dublin Regulation establishes rules for which European Member State is responsible for reviewing and assessing an asylum application. This means that the default responsibility for assessing an asylum claim remains with the country of first arrival. In the case of the need for international referral of a (potential) victim of trafficking within the European union the Dublin Regulations heightens the risk for further human rights violations.

The following examples show the difficulties faced by specialized organizations in assisting the needs of (potential) victims of trafficking in human beings in transnational referrals and human rights violations under the Dublin regulation. These cases have been provided by TIATAS partner organizations Arsis (Greece), Sicar Cat (Spain)  and Proyecto Esperanza (Spain) who are specialized experts on the support of (potential) victims of trafficking.

Woman threatened by forced marriage in her home country has not been voluntarely relocated with her family on time to ensure she will not encounter repeated threats by the perpetrators wider network in the the first country  of arrival to Germany (Greece). Therefore the Family had to travel irregularly through more dangerous migration paths 

Case 1: Afghanistan – Greece (Lesvos to Athens) – accepted for voluntary relocation to Italy which did not take place, the family had to leave Greece by themselves because of security concerns

Case description:

Family A. from Afghanistan has been referred by UNHCR from Lesvos to Athens in 2020.  The family consists of the Father, Mother, one daughter at the age of 18 years old, and five sons (16, 13, 9, 6 and 1 year old) The family was forced to leave Afghanistan as the eldest daughter of the family was threatened with forced marriage.  When they arrived in Lesvos, the daughter and her mother were attacked by relatives of the man who she was threatened to get married to. The family applied for relocation to Germany while still living on Lesvos.

In March 2021 they were informed that the German authorities were unable to review their file and were offered to take part in the voluntary relocation program to Italy. The family accepted and signed the required documents on 12.03.2021. However, the relocation of the family never took place. The daughter and mother were referred for psychological support to an organization specializing in gender-based violence. The family left Greece alone in the summer of 2022.

Challenges and observations:


  • Even though the family got accepted for voluntary relocation to Italy the relocation did not take place
  • A safe transnational referral for the family could not be supported because the family members decided to travel alone and had to face precautions because they had to travel irregularly due to security concerns and very long waiting times for relocation within the Dublin system


  • The story of Family A is an example of the impact of Dublin Procedures on carrying out transnational referrals
  • Similar stories have been reproduced several times under the Dublin regulations which lead to further inability to support the needs and safety of clients in the best possible manner
  • Even if voluntary relocation by another European Member State is accepted the procedures take very long to be carried out or are not carried out at all leaving asylum seekers with security concerns in the country of first arrival with little options other than travelling to another country irregularly

Human trafficking victim exploited in several European countries and returned to Spain as the country of entry to the European Union by applying the Dublin Regulation

One of the defining characteristics of human trafficking is the mobility of victims who, in the cases analyzed, are exploited in different European Union (EU) countries to generate more income for their traffickers. In these cases, victims may come into contact with law enforcement or asylum officers in an EU destination country other than the country of entry. Unfortunately, these victims are often not properly detected and identified as such, and/or do not receive adequate attention according to their needs and the assessment of the risk to which they are exposed. As a result, they are subjected to situations of re-victimization, including, at times, exposure to new trafficking situations.

Case 2: Guinea – Spain – Germany

Case description:

18 year old woman from Guinea. There is no detailed information about her situation in her country of origin. The only available information is that she was a victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation in prostitution in both Spain and Germany.

Intervention and referral:

Whilst at a center for asylum seekers in Germany, the woman is returned to Spain by the German authorities in application of the Dublin Regulation without any information, coordination, or referral. Once in Madrid, the woman calls the professionals at the German asylum center desperately asking for help. She informs them that she is homeless and living in the street, without economic resources or support of any kind, and that she is being, once again, exploited in prostitution.

Staff at the German center contacts Proyecto Esperanza through the 24-hour emergency telephone number and facilitates the woman’s telephone number so that we can try to contact her urgently and offer her support. They do not provide us with any detailed information about the case, the woman’s situation, or where she is.
We try to contact her immediately on the cell phone number provided, but it is not operational, and neither that day nor in the following days and weeks we manage to contact her. It is impossible to locate her and offer her help.

We provide the little information we have to the police and the emergency social services, but, in spite of following up the case, we have not been able to locate the woman.

Challenges and observations:


  • The German authorities do not inform the asylum center in Germany where the woman was initially held about her return to Spain.
  • Despite her highly vulnerable profile, the German authorities also do not share any information, nor coordinate with the Spanish authorities, or with any specialized organization to organize the reception of the woman in Spain.
  • No detailed information about the case is provided or offered by the asylum center in Germany that contacted Proyecto Esperanza.
  • It is impossible to locate the woman on the cell phone number provided.


  • This case is a resounding example of malpractice.
  • The authorities failed in their obligation of due diligence by not carrying out any information management or coordination in a situation that affected a woman in a position of extreme vulnerability.
  • The poor performance of the authorities resulted in the re-victimization of the woman who, in the absence of any support and help, ended up being sexually exploited again in prostitution and disappeared.


On the basis of the cases analyzed, we would like to conclude with three general recommendations we consider key in avoiding the re-victimization to which victims, or potential victims of trafficking, from third countries are often subjected in transnational referral processes:

  • To generate common agreements or Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) between organizations, authorities and key actors in Southern European countries, which are the gateway to the EU for refugees and migrants, and organizations, authorities and key actors located in the countries of subsequent reception.
  • To establish a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for transnational referral to ensure that transnational referral procedures are coordinated, consistent and cantered on the rights of the victims or potential victims.
  • To strengthen the training of key actors (both traditional and non-traditional), to improve the early identification of potential victims of trafficking, in the context of asylum procedures, and their ability to refer victims or potential victims safely and quickly. Awareness of the transnational dimension of human trafficking among frontline professionals is critical to advancing access to rights for trafficked persons.

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