Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...


Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...

Events and News


In September 2007, GAATW released a report entitled Collateral Damage: the Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures on Human Rights Around the World. The Report, an in-depth study of eight countries, showed that all the countries had made significant efforts to stop or reduce human trafficking. These included passing legislation, the formation of specialist police and prosecutorial units, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on anti-trafficking measures. Despite these measures to prevent trafficking in persons, the findings showed that anti-trafficking efforts were not necessarily improving the protection of the rights of trafficked persons, and in some cases lead to even more human rights abuses.


1. Trafficked persons, or people suspected of being trafficked are routinely being held in detention without their consent. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina a case was documented in which a brothel was raided and the women were taken to a shelter ‘for their protection’, although they said they had not been trafficked. The authorities took their passports and refused to allow them a chance to collect their possessions before locking them into a closed shelter (they were not permitted to leave). The women refused assistance as trafficked women because they did not feel they had been trafficked, but nevertheless they were detained for two months before the shelter wrote to the authorities that they should be released.


2. In 2007, a seafood factory in Thailand which had been known for several years to have been severely abusing its workers was raided. The NGOs involved were given only half a day to screen 288 workers and decide if they were trafficked, legal or undocumented migrants. Those identified as trafficked were put into a shelter. There was no provision in the anti-trafficking law to assist male victims of trafficking, so those young men were deported. Workers who did not have legal papers were also immediately deported, although they had suffered the same conditions as the others. The employers were not charged with trafficking, but rather sheltering illegal immigrants; they were fined just over $2000 USD and received no jail sentence.


3. The emphasis on prosecuting traffickers means that trafficked men, women and children are not given an opportunity to make other claims for example for unpaid wages or for compensation for pain and suffering – compensation which would allow them to start a new life. In a case in Thailand in 2000, a brothel was raided and all women over 18 were taken to a police cell where they received no information or support. Those guessed to be under-18 were put into a closed shelter and not permitted to leave. No case for compensation for lost wages was made and there was no enquiry into working conditions.


Based on this Report, GAATW member organisations decided that the Alliance should seek to follow up the 11 recommendations of the Report. In 2008, the GAATW International Secretariat launched a campaign for a more human-rights based approach to anti-trafficking - it was called Recognise Rights! The objective of Recognise Rights is to increase the protection and recognition of the rights of trafficked and migrant women, through the long-term promotion of, and advocacy on the recommendations.Click here to see the 11 recommendations.
Throughout 2008, Recognise Rights focused on increasing awareness about the findings and recommendations highlighted in Collateral Damage among member organisations and allies, as well as at international, regional and national meetings and conferences. Key events include the campaign launch at the UN.GIFT conference in Austria, the ‘First’ Latin American and Caribbean Congress on Trafficking in Argentina, the Freedom Network Conference in the USA, the World Social Forum on Migration in Spain, and during the civil society events of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in the Philippines. These activities have lead to an increase in dialogue on the negative impacts of anti-trafficking policy at many levels.

In 2009, GAATW-IS aims to increase advocacy and activities to continue our advocacy and awareness raising on these recommendations. Projects for 2009 include:
- Focusing on the recommendation for Non-Conditional Assistance, including developing a report on how countries are addressing this issue and identifying recommendations.
- Joining forces with GAATW's advocacy team to lobby for a formal Review Mechanism of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocols (UNTOC), specifically the Human Trafficking Protocol, which is necessary to help assess the impact of anti-trafficking measures and better involve civil society in finding solutions that improve the human rights protection for trafficked and migrant persons.
- Continuing to focus on specific recommendations highlighted by GAATW members and the Collateral Damage report, including ensuring access to justice for trafficked persons and access to compensation, more opportunities for people to migrate for work legally, and protection for all workers (including migrant workers) to organise and join a union to help protect their labour rights.
- Launch the Recognise Rights Art Action - a global action to help visualise the change we want to see regarding the human rights recognition and protection for trafficked and migrant people.

Strategic Thematic Direction

During 2011-13, through our Power in Migration and Work thematic programme, we engaged more directly with the migrant rights and labour rights movements. During 2014-2016 our work will build on the work of previous years; we will continue to push for a human rights based approach in anti-trafficking policies and practices.  We will also deepen our engagement with the issue of migration and labour.

The three thematic strategic issues outlined below are continuations of our work during 2011-13.

ACCOUNTABILITY Increasing the accountability of all anti-trafficking stakeholders involved in the design or implementation of anti-trafficking responses, towards the persons whose human rights they purport to protect.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE Broadening spaces for trafficked persons and migrant workers to practice their human rights by improving access to justice and combating all forms of discrimination that impact women’s ability to exercise their human rights as they relate to trafficking.

POWER IN MIGRATION AND WORK Centring an analysis of women’s power in their labour and migration to better assess migration and labour policies’ impact on women, and to work towards labour and migration processes that reflect migrants’ needs, aspirations and capabilities.