Europe

Italy's human trafficking problem worsening - UN

  • 20 September 2013
  • From the section Europe
Illegal migrants near the Italian island of Lampedusa. July 2013
Image caption Italy's long coastline makes it vulnerable to seaborne illegal migrants

A UN expert on human trafficking has called on Italy to do more to confront the problem.

After an extensive study of the issue in Italy, UN Special Rapporteur Joy Ezeilo said she had concluded that the situation was worsening.

She cited cases in which victims had been forced into the sex trade or become forced labourers.

Italy's geographical location and long coastline make it particularly vulnerable to people smugglers.

Mrs Ezeilo told the BBC she had heard harrowing testimony including that of a young Asian woman who had suffered such horrific violence at a garment factory that she lost her sight.

A Nigerian woman told Mrs Ezeilo how she had been forced into prostitution and that the traffickers were threatening her family over the massive debts they said she still owed for being taken to Europe.

Mrs Ezeilo said she felt that the menace posed by the criminals engaged in modern-day slavery was growing.

Image caption Joy Ezeilo says traffickers are not afraid to use horrific violence against their victims

"The impunity of traffickers and their daring ability now to mete out violence in order to keep the trafficked persons for their own exploitative purposes is one that is becoming more dangerous," she said.

According to the most recent EU figures, Italy identified 2,400 victims of trafficking in 2010, a quarter of all found in the bloc.

The country is both a destination for trafficking victims and a transit point for onward trafficking of victims from Eastern Europe and Africa.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says Mrs Ezeilo did not produce any hard statistical evidence to back up her analysis.

However, she said that after extensive consultations with numerous agencies, she had no doubt that Italy's human trafficking problem was expanding.

She said there were thousands of victims and that the country still lacked a co-ordinated national strategy to tackle the issue.

She said the capacity of the authorities to identify victims of human trafficking were "manifestly inadequate".

Italy's interior ministry has so far not commented on Mrs Ezeilo's findings.

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