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...


Joint NGO call to EU leaders: Measures to improve victim’s rights are needed for the revision of the EU anti-trafficking directive to be meaningful, and not actually harmful for victims and those at risk

For the PDF version, click here.

Joint civil society recommendations for the trialogue negotiations on the revision of the EU ‘Anti- Trafficking Directive’ (2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (COM/2022/732 final). 

Ahead of the planned trialogue meeting on 12 December 2023, we call on the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU to find meaningful compromises to ensure that the revised anti-trafficking directive will indeed strengthen the rights of victims of trafficking and enable their access to justice. 

In particular, the negotiating institutions must draw on suggested amendments of the European Parliament to improve, at a minimum: 

  • effective implementation of the non-punishment principle, through further guidance and legal provisions (Article 8) 
  • compensation via prefinancing by States and the use of recovered assets and fines (Article 17 and Art 7) 
  • unconditional access to support for all victims (Article 11) 
  • linkages to the right to international protection (Article 11a) 
  • adequate complaints mechanisms (Article 18) 

We also support the proposals of the European Parliament to improve data collection (Art.19). Advancements in all of these areas are the only reason that can justify the revision of the legal framework. 

We further strongly urge the Council and Commission not to extend the criminalisation of consumers of services and clients of sex workers, nor extend the definition of trafficking in a way that risks to create more confusion instead of more clarity. We call on EU governments not to compromise at all, and fully reject the amendments made by the Parliament on articles 1 (2) and 18. Should provisions criminalising the unknowing and unintentional use of services of trafficked people, or encouraging the criminalisation of clients, be included in the revision, the revision of the directive will be harmful for anti-trafficking efforts and human rights. 

Further detail on these amended articles is set out below: 


Article 7 Seizure and confiscation (EP: Freezing and confiscation) 

We strongly support the EU Parliament amendment to art 7 “Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that frozen and confiscated proceeds derived from, and instrumentalities used for the commission, or contribution to the commission, of the offences referred to in this Directive are used, as a matter of priority, to provide victims support, assistance and protection, including through direct compensation of victims and further invest into investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases.” 

Currently financial resources for direct support to victims are very limited and access to compensation remains in practice nearly fully dependent on the availability of frozen and confiscated proceeds. A strong requirement for the use of frozen and confiscated assets for victims’ support, assistance and protection will enhance victims’ rights and their access to justice. It has been strongly recommended for years by various high level experts1, and is currently also embedded in the (negotiated) Directive on Assets Recovery and confiscation; article 17 of this directive calls upon EU Member States to ‘consider taking measures allowing the use of confiscated property for public interest or social purposes. 

Article 8 Non-prosecution or non-application of penalties to the victim 

We strongly support the EU Parliament changes to article 8: 

  1. Member States shall take the necessary measures, including criminal law provisions and procedural guidelines, to ensure that victims of trafficking in human beings are not held liable for the irregularity of their entry into or stay in a Member State, or for their involvement in unlawful activities which they have been compelled to commit as a direct consequence of being subjected to any of the acts referred to in Article 2. Member States shall take the necessary measures to discontinue any proceedings against the victim, terminate any restriction of victims’ rights, including deprivation of liberty, to annul any related penalties and to expunge their police and criminal records where competent authorities have failed to apply the non-prosecution and non-application of penalties. 
  2. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that non-prosecution and non- application of penalties to the victims is not made conditional on the victim’s cooperation in the criminal investigation, prosecution or trial, without prejudice to Directive 2004/81/EC or provisions of national law transposing that Directive. 
  3. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that any decision concerning the non-prosecution and non-application of penalties to the victims is taken following an individual assessment of the case by trained and qualified officials. 
  4. Member States shall raise awareness and enhance capacities concerning the implementation of the national provisions adopted pursuant to this Article among professionals likely to come into contact with victims, including law enforcement, the judiciary, legal representatives, border management and labour inspectors. 
  5. Member States shall prohibit any deprivation of liberty, prosecution and application of any penalties in the case of children for their involvement in unlawful activities which they have been compelled to commit as a direct consequence of being subjected to any of the acts referred to in Article 2.’; 

The principle of non-punishment of the victim for crimes they have been involved in as a consequence of their trafficking is an essential guarantee to ensure that trafficked persons are not detained, prosecuted or punished for crimes they have committed in the context of human trafficking. In practice we see that the principle is very often not applied by judicial authorities and legal practitioners, leading to devastating outcomes for victims. A clear obligation upon States to adopt specific penal provisions and prosecutorial guidelines can ensure a better application and interpretation of the principle. Currently only a few EU Member States have introduced specific provisions in their criminal codes. In other Member States, general provisions such as the defence of necessity have been applied, and only in cases of offences usually related to minor violations of immigration laws. 

Competent authorities must have the obligation to apply the non-punishment provision as early as possible, and thus to discontinue any proceedings and any measures implying restrictions of victims’ rights including but not limited to detention, as soon as relevant grounds have been found. When the grounds for the application of the non-punishment provision have not been appropriately assessed by competent authorities, and such grounds are subsequently found, any proceedings against the victim must be promptly terminated, and all their consequences cancelled, before and after an eventual conviction. This implies that criminal records must be cleared, and any other sanctions cancelled including fines or other administrative sanctions. The aim is to avoid a situation where victims, although exempted from criminal liability, are obliged to bear negative consequences – including but non-limited to expulsion or deportation orders – deriving from a failure of the authorities to comply with their due diligence obligations to ensure non-punishment. 

It is further essential that the application of the non-punishment provision is totally unconditional, and should not be in any way made dependent on the victim’s ability or will to cooperate with authorities in criminal investigation, prosecution and trial. In other words, it should not be used to obtain information in exchange of immunity. 

Article 11 Assistance and support for victims of trafficking in human beings 

We generally support the changes made by the Parliament related to article 11, and in particular strongly support, the proposal for the addition of Article 11a (see further below) but regret that none of the institutions have been willing to promote more access to residence for victims of trafficking, in addition to enhanced access to unconditional support, which is urgently needed. In nearly all EU countries, the access to support for victims of human trafficking remains closely tied with the criminal justice system. Assistance and protection are still made dependent upon reporting the crime and to victims’ participation in legal proceedings; as well as the initiation of an investigation, continuation of a prosecution or a successful prosecution of perpetrators for human trafficking. Making assistance conditional on cooperation with a criminal justice process harms the rights of trafficked persons and related vulnerable groups. Moreover there are only few possibilities for victims to obtain residence on personal grounds. Granting victims residence in a range of situations, such as the victim’s safety or vulnerability, state of health and family situation, would significantly increase victims’ incentives to co- operate with the authorities. 

Victims of trafficking in need of international protection 

  1. Member States shall ensure compliance with the principle of non-refoulement and with the right of victims to apply for international protection or equivalent national status, including when the victim is receiving assistance, support and protection referred to in article 11 and notwithstanding the irregularity of entry into the territory of the Member States or stay paragraph 3. To that effect, the tasks of the national referral mechanisms referred to in article 11 paragraph 4 shall include close cooperation with asylum authorities and establishing protocols to ensure that assistance, support and protection, is provided to victims of trafficking who are also in need of international protection, taking into account the victim’s individual circumstances, including whether they experienced discrimination based on grounds such as gender, sex, race or ethnic origins , disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, or a combination of those. 
  2. Member States shall dedicate appropriate resources and shall take the necessary measures to ensure the rapid and accurate detection and identification of victims of trafficking in human beings, and their referral to international protection procedures by competent authorities, relevant civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders involved in the identification, reception and processing of irregular migrants The victims shall be informed of their right to apply for international protection, in a language they can understand and at the earliest opportunity. 
  3. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the principle of non-prosecution or non-application of penalties to the victim under Article 8 is applied to victims of trafficking in need of international protection. 
  4. Member States shall ensure complementarity and coordination between international protection systems and procedures for the protection of victims of trafficking. In doing so, appropriate and effective referral mechanisms shall be in place between the authorities involved in anti-trafficking activities and those responsible for granting international protection. 
  5. Member States shall ensure that the examination of applications for international protection of victims of trafficking and the assessment of the merits of the application is not linked to a victim’s willingness or ability to cooperate with the authorities in the criminal investigation and prosecution of trafficking without prejudice to Directive 2004/81/EC or provisions of national law transposing that Directive. 

Compliance with the principle of non-refoulement and with the right of victims to apply for international protection and ensuring complementarity and coordination between international protection systems and procedures for the protection of victims of trafficking, can strongly support victims access to rights and enhance early identification and referral of victims. We currently see all over the EU that few persons are identified as victims of trafficking among those looking for international protection. Identification among this group can be enhanced by ensuring that it is not only State authorities alone who are in charge of identification. Bodies in charge of identification and referral could consist of multidisciplinary teams established at the local level, in which relevant support organisations including civil society anti-trafficking organisations and trade unions should be represented, in addition to institutional actors such as police authorities and labour inspection services.2 Civil society organisations have an essential role in the first assessment of victims’ personal situations and their preliminary or formal identification. 

Article 17 Compensation to Victims 

We strongly support the changes made by the European Parliament related to art. 17 on compensation:

a. Member States shall ensure that the victims of trafficking have the right to an effective and in due time legal remedy under national law in the event of a breach of obligations deriving from this Directive.

  1. Member States shall ensure that all victims of trafficking in human beings have access to effective schemes of compensation regardless of whether a judicial process has been initiated. 
  2. 1a. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that compensation awarded to a victim of trafficking in human beings as a result of a decision adopted in criminal or civil proceedings is paid in due time after the adoption of the decision by the Member State concerned to the victim. The Member State concerned shall pursue those liable for that compensation to reimburse the compensation advanced by the State to the victim. 
  3. Member States shall establish a national victims fund or a similar instrument according to their national legislation, with the frozen and confiscated proceeds derived from, and instrumentalities used for the commission, or contribution to the commission, of the offences referred to in this Directive in order to pay compensation to victims. 

Although the right to compensation is embedded in all international instruments on trafficking, including Directive 2011/36/EU, research shows that victims in the vast majority of cases do not receive compensation, even when it is awarded by Courts. It is important that trafficking victims have access to any victim compensation schemes, not only to the schemes for victims of violent crime of intent, taking into account that trafficking is not always committed by the use of violence but also by means of deception and coercion. Therefore, trafficked persons should have regular access to other existing schemes for victims of crime, and to new schemes that national authorities would eventually establish for victims of crime. 

As highlighted above, one of the obstacles to effective compensation is the lack of confiscated assets, as perpetrators usually hide their patrimonies. Ensuring early freezing and confiscation of the proceeds of crime will enhance the access to compensation for victims. Further the Parliament’s proposal for prefinancing of compensation is essential to guarantee that victims that are awarded compensation can effectively access it. This proposal is in line with the current Commission’s proposal for the revision of the Victim Rights Directive (of 12 July 2023). 

Article 18 - Prevention 

We strongly support the following amendment by the EP related to article 18 (5) 

  1. Member States shall put in place effective, accessible and independent complaint mechanisms. Such mechanisms would contribute to the early detection, identification of, assistance to and support for victims of trafficking. Complaints may be put forward by trusted third parties, such as NGOs, trade unions, or migrant workers’ organisations, on behalf of the victim under the condition that the victim has given consent. Coming forward with a complaint shall not lead to any reprisals for the victim, particularly in relation to their immigration status.

Safe reporting and complaint mechanisms are essential to enhance identification of victims of trafficking. Safe reporting and effective complaints mechanisms for undocumented workers to report exploitation and access justice, are lacking in most European Member States.3 As a result, people who are undocumented face arrest, detention, and deportation if they approach the police to report violence or abuse. Rather than offering help, authorities frequently deny their right to protection and assistance, and enforce – or threaten to enforce – punitive measures instead. A clear ‘firewall’ will allow workers to safely file a complaint to police or labour authorities and courts, and to get access to services and justice, all without facing immigration enforcement as a result. This would empower workers, uphold fundamental rights, tackle abuses, and promote fair business practice. It would also ensure that all cases are properly investigated, that perpetrators are held to account, and all victims can come forward. In order to support reporting for victims, it is important to offer a wide variety of complaints/ reporting mechanisms to cater to the multiple needs and circumstances of victims, including third- party reporting. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has highlighted the untapped potential of third-party reporting, as an alternative reporting option for victims that do not trust law enforcement.4 


Art 1 (related to current article 2) Offences concerning trafficking in human beings 

We strongly oppose the following amendment by the European Parliament: 

2.3. Exploitation shall include, as a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, including begging, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the exploitation of criminal activities, or the removal of organs, forced marriage, illegal adoption, surrogacy for reproductive exploitation, exploitation of children in residential and closed-type institutions, or the recruitment of children to commit or participate in criminal activities. 

We strongly oppose the additions by the European Parliament to the definition of human trafficking, as these seem r to create confusion instead of more clarity and will likely not promote a more uniform application of the definition at EU level. Human trafficking for the purpose of forced surrogacy can already be criminalised under the current definition of trafficking in persons. The proposed text related to surrogacy for reproductive exploitation could be interpreted to imply that all instances of gestational surrogacy are a form of ‘reproductive exploitation’, and a form of human trafficking. We strongly reject this interpretation. The term reproductive exploitation is a term which is not legally defined. Moreover, surrogacy in and of itself does not constitute a form of exploitation. Surrogacy covers many different situations, from human trafficking for the purpose of forced surrogacy, to consensual surrogacy, including cases of altruistic surrogacy. It is essential to distinguish between these situations. They cannot be tackled in the same way, but should each be addressed individually as appropriate. 

Moreover allegations or cases of women being trafficked for the purpose of forced surrogacy are extremely rare in Europe. 

We also see no need for the addition of “the recruitment of children to commit or participate in criminal activities”, as forced criminality is already part of the current definition and thus already criminalised. 

Lastly we believe that the reference to exploitation of children in residential and closed-type institutions can be embedded in the recitals, but would be too specific for inclusion in the definition. 

Article 18a 

We strongly oppose the proposal for article 18a to be inserted 

Offences concerning the use of services which are the object of exploitation extracted from a victim of an offence concerning trafficking in human beings 

  • In order to make the preventing and combating of trafficking in human beings more effective by discouraging demand, Member States shall take the necessary measures to establish as a criminal offence the use of service of people which are the objects of exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation as referred to in Article 2. 
  • 1a. Member States shall also consider taking measures regarding those who solicit, accept or obtain a sexual act from a person in a situation of prostitution in exchange for remuneration, the promise of remuneration, the provision of a benefit in kind or the promise of such a benefit. 
  • 1b. For other cases of exploitation referred to in Article 2, Member States shall take the necessary measures to establish as a criminal offence the use of such services when the user knew or could have reasonably known that the person was a victim of such exploitation. 
  • Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that an offence as established in accordance with paragraphs 1 and 2 are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties and sanctions. 

There is currently no evidence that criminalising the knowing or unknowing use will have any impact on the prevention or prosecution of human trafficking or that it will strengthen the rights of victims. On the contrary, such a provision is likely to harm the rights of sex workers, including persons trafficked and exploited in the sector. 

Law enforcement actors – who already struggle with limited capacity to investigate and prosecute human trafficking – would have to use their scarce resources to focus on users of services, instead of perpetrators of human trafficking. Such measures are expected to significantly weaken efforts to enhance identification of trafficked persons and their referral to support services. Victims can be worse off too, having to testify against the users of their services, while not necessarily being entitled to adequate protection and support. There have already been inconsistencies as to whether a victim is entitled to the same rights when the “user” is prosecuted, as when a trafficker is prosecuted. Currently, two-thirds of the EU Member States have already introduced provisions for criminalising the (knowing) use of services in national legislation and there is only very limited prosecutorial activity and few convictions across the EU. Evaluations conducted, including by the European Commission, have shown the absence of any proven positive impact of such a provision. 

Furthermore, it is surprising and counterproductive to differentiate, as the committees’ proposal does, between (the users of) different forms of human trafficking. This risks suggesting that there is a hierarchy between different types of human trafficking, and that some forms of human trafficking are “worse” than others. This has no basis in international or European law. 


22nd November, 2023

For the PDF version, go here.

GAATW International Secretariat and members stand in solidarity with Bangladeshi garment workers who are protesting the new minimum wage proposed by the Labour Department, which is much lower than the rise in cost of living, and are demanding the immediate establishment of a living minimum wage of Tk 23,000 (USD 209).  This is the minimum wage necessary for workers to be able to lead a dignified life, and is in line with the proposal of Asia Floor Wage Alliance Bangladesh, who submitted a review petition to the government-appointed wage board in Bangladesh on November 20th, demanding a thorough review of the newly proposed minimum wage. Similar support and demand for the Bangladeshi state authorities to reconsider their position has come from other global unions.

GAATW supports these demands and wishes to highlight that this is not a standalone case but as part of a long global struggle for decent work and living conditions. We demand for fair minimum wage for all workers - nothing more, nothing less!

We are concerned by the way in which these protests are being portrayed by some media outlets. This event should be reported as garment workers demanding  fair living wages and not  just asking for a wage hike. This is at the heels of what the workers faced during COVID-19 when in early 2020, international brands and buyers canceled $1.44 billion worth of Bangladesh garment exports, a majority without compensation to the local suppliers. Nearly 1.2 million workers were let go without any compensation or severance package only to accrue more healthcare expenses as COVID-19 gained a foothold. Considering this volatility of the garment industry, the living wage is a necessary tool for workers to be able to live decently above the poverty line and be able to have the ability to save.

We are also concerned by reports of state-led intimidation and violence against protesting workers. As Nazma Akter, a trade union leader and founder of Awaj Foundation explains, ‘demonstrators are being depicted as criminals, even though “small” rocks and brick chips are no match for rubber bullets and tear gas’. This use of force against protesters violates workers’ right to collectively bargain  and forecloses any opportunity for social dialogue. 

This is also an issue that disproportionately impacts women as 60 percent of the ready-made garment (RMG) industry workers are women. Women are confined in low wages jobs and are often forced to work overtime. This results in a double burden due lack of sleep, rest, nutrition and time poverty. 

Solidarity from other women workers of the Global majority is pouring from across the border in support of Bangladeshi workers’ demand for higher minimum wages. Filipino Women Workers of the Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK) have expressed their support Bangladeshi workers’ demand for higher wages and improved working conditions. Similar support has been voiced from garment workers and unions from Sri Lanka, states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in India, all of whom are battling similar historic struggles, but silos are cracking.

Joining the wave of international solidarity and demand for workers’ rights, GAATW urges 

  1. The Government of Bangladesh to stop the state violence and respond to the workers’ demands rather than portraying them as threats.
  2. The Government of Bangladesh , the wage board and the BGMEA to institute the minimum living wage of Tk 23,000 for gament sector workers.  This will set  an example for other exporting industries and countries and respect workers’ right to fair wage.
  3. The international clothing brands to show their solidarity and adopt a  rights-based approach instead of competing for the lowest price.
  4. All the CSOs working for the rights of workers, irrespective of sector and immigration status, to continue to support this struggle by sharing information and expressing solidarity.

A message from Nazma Akhter, the founder and Executive Director of Awaj Foundation, a GAATW member in Bangladesh:

"The authorities are clamping down on workers the only way they know how: through violence. Workers are coming out in their thousands and that terrifies them. We are a powerful pack and collectively we are stronger than they think. Till Now four workers have been killed brutally from police fire & attack of local goons named Rasel, Imran, Anjuman & Jalaluddin. The women workers are the worst victims of brutality of police & local goons-apart from sexual harassment they suffered from all types of violence, they there beaten up, stick charged, been thrown rubber bullets & tear gas. Even the pregnant workers were not spared from the brutality. As the protest escalates, the death toll rises everyday along with thousands of severely injured workers. The workers are being arrested everyday, rendered jobless, charged with legal cases and blacklisted. Sometimes the police in civil dress are roaming in the workers’ area and they are threatening the workers to leave their areas.

The declared monthly minimum wage, 12500 Taka (USD 113) is not acceptable and its a mockery to the workers. They deserve a fair share of the wages and I am asking the Government and Prime Minister to reconsider the declared wage to 23000 Taka (USD 209). Hungry workers will not produce profit. The garment workers whose blood and sweat goes into making profit of the largest brands of the world, reports says that 93% of the brands don't pay the workers their living wage. The brand's fair purchasing practice will also be a key factor when it comes to ensuring working rights, freedom of association, freedom of movement and freedom of expression."

Other solidarity statements to read
Asia Floor Wage Alliance’s statement: Statement by the Garment Workers Alliance Supporting Bangladeshi Workers’ Demand for a Minimum Wage of Tk 23,000

IndustriALL Global Union’s statement: Unions in Bangladesh demand revision of new minimum wage 

APWLD’ statement: Hands off 11,000 Workers in Bangladesh, There are No Such Things as Illegal Strikes 


  1. Animus Association Foundation, Bulgaria
  2. Fundación Libera, Chile
  3. Corporación Espacios de Mujer, Colombia
  4. Fundación Renacer, Colombia
  5. ECPAT, Guatemala
  6. Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CDH), Ecuador
  7. Ibiss-co, Brazil
  8. Association for Community Development (ACD), Bangladesh
  9. MIST, France
  10. FIZ, Switzerland
  11. La Strada, Macedonia
  12. Novi Put, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  13. ASTRA – Antitrafficking Action, Serbia
  14. Ban Ying, Germany
  15. Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
  16. La Strada International
  17. La Strada, Ukraine
  18. European Sex Worker Rights Alliance - ESWA
  19. Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organization (PRWSWO), Pakistan
  20. National Workers Welfare Trust, India
  21. Telangana Domestic Workers Union, India
  22. Andhra Domestic Workers Union, India
  23. Just Economy and Labor Institute (JELI), Thailand
  24. Brigada Callejera de Apoyo a la Mujer, E.M. A.C, México
  25. AMKAS, Nepal
  26. Rights Jessore, Bangladesh
  27. FairWork, The Netherlands
  28. La Strada, Moldova
  29. GAATW, Canada
  30. Public Union "Clean World " Aid to Women (PUCW), Azerbaijan
  31. Serra-Schönthal Foundation, Spain
  32. Comitato per i Diritti Civili delle Prostitute APS, Italy
  33. Human Resource Development Foundation, Turkiye
  34. Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra (BNSK), Bangladesh

Summary of Global South Women’s Forum (GSWF) Panel Discussion


For the Spanish version, go here.

GAATW organised a panel at the IWRAW virtual Global South Women’s Forum (GSWF) on 29th October 2023. GAATW organised it with its members and partners from South East Asia and Latin America. They are Serve the People Association (SPA, Taiwan), Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Hong Kong, Espacios De Mujer (Colombia) and ASBRAD (Brazil). The key objective of the panel discussion was to bring together the experiences of women migrants and survivors of trafficking from these two regions. GAATW and our members and partners encourage self-representation and participation of the women who continue to fight for their rights as community organisers in different countries of destination. The speakers’ reflection on the themes of the GSWF’s theme of access to documentation and citizenship as site of exclusion, not only based on their personal experience but also their role as community organisers.

The speakers are as follows:


Francia Balderama. She is the director of the National Domestic Workers' Union. She has been a migrant caretaker, and now works as a factory worker in Taiwan. She is also representing SPA.

Photo Rosanna AMMORE speaker

Rossana Tapiru is a member of an organisation called SAMAKANA. It is a new organisation composed of Filipina women marriage migrants in Japan. She is also representing APMM.

Yexica Marcano

Yexica Marcanon (Venezuelan in Colombia): journalist, Venezuelan migrant living in Medellín for six years, co-founder of the Venezuelan Volunteer Corporation – CORPVOLVEN and entrepreneur, creator of Yexi’s Cakes, a family business dedicated to artistic baking.

Jandreliz Zambrano

Jandreliz Desire Zambrano Franco, Venezuelan advisor to the Brazilian Association for the Defense of Women, Children and Adolescents - ASBARD.

GAATW’s feminist approach to rights underscores the plurality of the category of ‘migrant or trafficked women’. Using this approach the panel of four women shed light on the variations in migration practices and social and cultural determinants of inclusion and exclusion that go beyond the written letter of immigration policies and international conventions.

  1. The psychological stressors of people on the move: Whether trafficked or migrated, women reflected that they find themselves caught up in a situation of conflicting normative expectations and these create tensions. For example, women migrated to provide for their families, and economic security to provide for their families is a strong ‘pull’ factor of migration. But the dual segmentation of the market plays a role where migration of workers in jobs like caregivers or factory-workers is penalised by leaving families/ children behind. These competing social roles create tension and add to the stress.

“My son graduated from university and now I am working to make sure my daughter graduates too. I was a caregiver but now I work at a factory. I can make money now… I realised that we, as women migrant workers, are trying to be superwomen. Trying to send money back home to those who rely on us. We are scared not only for ourselves but also our families.” says Francia who migrated to work in Taiwan from the Philippines.

The stressors are worsened by the conditions of work for women that includes gendered nature of work available to them, housing conditions, working hours and social protection.

Yexica who migrated from Venezuela to Colombia for work adds, ‘my cousin was going to earn much more money than me as a woman migrant. So they will say ‘you are going to be in the kitchen, we were going to be paying 30 or 50,000 pesos’. But for them, men, they were going to be outside attending the people and they will receive a higher remuneration.’

Loneliness as a subjective feeling of personal disconnection and objective lack of social network in the country of destination is a big factor of psychological stress even if other conditions are favourable. The alienation is exacerbated when migrants don’t speak the language.

“They [the psychologists] gave me sleeping pills, because I was in a crisis, I didn't know what to do. There were just too many things in my head. I didn't know anyone, I didn't have family there, how am I going to go out and walk, what's going to happen with my children, who can I trust, because they were really small. And they [ASBRAD] kept telling me to remain calm”, explained Jandreliz who migrated from Venezuela to Brazil.

  1. Intergenerational considerations of migration: The panel stated the distinct hardships of single mothers. While the women face risk becoming undocumented when unfavourable working conditions are not unbearable and there is no legal recourse or social protection guarantee. Once undocumented, there is no firewall between their immigration status and public services and assistance because access to these depends on proving to have residence permit in one of the municipalities. If migrant women are not registered, they and their children are cut off from healthcare, public schools and other services. For the children to have any recognition, they are dependent on the approval of a Japanese man. Many marriage migrants are all at the mercy of their partners’ or husbands’ cooperation for their visas and ‘legal’ status in Japan.

“It's also a pressure that we don’t have any healthcare access because we are undocumented. So you just have to endure it. I also experienced it, when I got sick. I got a cough but my flu worsened. I couldn't go to the hospital. Some people and NGOs helped me but nothing from the Philippines government. It was supposed to help us. The biggest challenge was for my two children because they have different nationalities.” says Rosanna who migrated to Japan from the Philippines.

Similarly, the children of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia were at risk of statelessness because Colombia does not automatically grant nationality as birthright to children born on its territory. According to Colombian legal and constitutional frameworks, a child born in Colombia to foreign parents can only obtain citizenship through diplomatic certification from the country of parents’ nationality or by proving at least one parent is domiciled in Colombia. Due to the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the diplomatic certification was not an option. The civil society had to carry out a campaign because it was a constitutional restriction. As a result of this, in 2019, a bill that creates a unique citizenship exception for children born in Colombian territory to parents who have emigrated from Venezuela was approved. This bill is restricted by time and nationality leaving many other children of migrant women at risk of statelessness.

“When we talk about regularization. If you don't have a regular situation, it is very hard..My sister started working in a factory. After the week, she didn't have any remuneration. And also she was not able to demand that remuneration, because it was not a regular situation. In all the journey that we have been looking for information. When we found it, we started this corporation. Once we have the information, we aspire to be better, to know more about our rights, and something that we have been repeating. There is no problem that you cross the border, even if you don't have a nationality, you don't have citizenship, you have rights, you have the right to work, your children have the right to education. This is the point we have been putting in front of our cooperation, we have met many organizations like Espacios de Mujer, the one who gave me the opportunity to be here today sharing my story. They have been like a key support for us and have been this network that we needed. Because we didn't know anybody and didn't have any family here. We didn't have any network.” says Yexica, stressing the need for recognition by regularisation of migrants whose elderly parents could not access healthcare after they immigrated to Colombia with her.

  1. Reproductive rights of migrant women: In breach of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that specifies women’s human rights to equality and non-discrimination, migrant women’s reproductive rights are threatened by employers and recruitment agencies.

Francia, the director of National Domestic Workers Union says, “Many Filipinos here [in Taiwan] experienced a lot of abuse, especially women who get pregnant. There's a lot that you can deliver a baby in Taiwan. But they are usually threatened by the employers and the agencies that they need to abort their babies. Otherwise, they will be deported back to the Philippines.

So the National Domestic Workers Union is not only helping those who are abused, but also those who also are pregnant so they can keep their babies. So we refer them to shelters so that when mothers bear their babies,they can stay in the shelter like the one SPA assists.”

This discrimination results from the unregulated environments in which migrant women work as domestic workers, caregivers and factory workers. They are reduced to ‘labouring bodies’ and get penalised by threat of deportation or abortion to demand work from them. The shelters then support the pregnancy, delivery and post-natal care of the migrant women and their children.

  1. Recognition of skills and qualifications: The women pointed towards the lack of recognition of skills in the country of destination, as well as upon return, creating a gap in economic reintegration in the migration cycle. “I am a journalist, professionally, but even after six years, I was not able to get my certification.” shares Yexica who started baking cakes after she migrated to Colombia, starting an entirely new line of work to adapt. Jandreliz was working as a teacher for 10 years before she arrived in Brazil and started working with ASBRAD for the defense of women, children and adolescents because of differences in language.

We encourage researchers, experts, collectives and CSOs to take cognisance of what was shared by the panellists during the session and take it forward in their areas of work. We will continue to create spaces such as these where women from diverse contexts and backgrounds who are on the move can listen and tell each other their journeys. These are not anecdotes but nuanced examples of how rights are comprised and why we need to keep advocating for rights of migrant workers with a gendered lens.

Note of gratitude: We would like to extend our gratitude to our panellists who joined us despite odd hours, on a weekend. We recognise that they joined us on their rest day because that is the only personal time they have available. We want to thank our members and partners organisations who are working with these migrant community organisers and steadily strengthening their voices and work. The coordination by the IWRAW and GSWF team who organised this virtual panel so seamlessly is worth noting. Lastly, the translators and interpreters who helped us stand by the value of language justice.


Summary of Consultation: Migrant women in Europe’s experiences of socioeconomic inclusion

Berlin, July 2023

1.       Background and Context


Over the last three years GAATW, together with ten partners from Southeast Asia and Europe, has used a feminist participatory action research methodology to learn about the experiences of 259 Southeast Asian women migrants who were either currently in Europe, or who had recently returned from Europe. The purpose of this research was to learn more about their experiences of “inclusion” at home and in Europe.

GAATW’s research was limited to just five European countries (UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland) and three Southeast Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines). Therefore, following the publication of the research report, we wanted to expand our understanding to include the experiences of women migrants from other parts of the world, and/or who are in different European countries to the ones in our study.

To this end, GAATW approached other network organisations for a two‐day consultation that would examine the barriers to socioeconomic inclusion for migrant women in Europe and give an opportunity to discuss the advocacy priorities of each organisation.

In July 2023, GAATW spent two days discussing these issues with eleven other network organisations. This memo summarises the key points that arose during those two days and outlines the next steps GAATW intends to take as a result.

2.       Summary of Discussion


  1. The violence of EU migration policies and practices

The violence being perpetrated against migrants by EU institutions is severe. From pushbacks at the borders, to prolonged detention in inhuman and degrading conditions, to the criminalisation of migration leading to arrests, imprisonment and deportation.

We cannot look at the question of inclusion before first acknowledging the real violence that is being perpetrated on migrant people in this region.

  1. There are insufficient routes to autonomous residence permits for migrant women

Too often residence permits are linked to a woman’s spouse or a precarious employment contract. An autonomous, long‐term residence permit is key for the realisation of a woman’s right to decent work, access to housing, healthcare, social protection, a sense of community and a family life.

Similarly, for victims of trafficking, residence status and the right to work is too often conditional on cooperation with investigation and prosecutions.

  1. Restrictive labour migration pathways

Labour migration pathways to the EU are even more restricted than before and it is very hard for women to realise their rights and experience a sense of inclusion when their right to stay in a country and work is temporary and precarious.

The focus of EU migration policies is to attract only so‐called “highly‐skilled” workers. Women working in so‐called “low‐skilled” sectors are given only temporary labour migration permits. This has a particularly harmful impact on migrant women who are impoverished or on women working in gendered sectors, such as domestic work, and other forms of care work etc, which tend to be classed as “low‐skilled.” Other gendered sectors, such as sex work, are left wholly unrecognised and unregulated, leaving women migrants in these sectors undocumented and unable to access the formal economy.

The approach to Ukrainian people exemplifies what could be achieved by more expansive migration pathways. Ukrainians were able to choose which country they launched their asylum application from because they had visa free travel and could choose to go to countries where they had existing connections. This experience has shown that it can be very easy to “integrate” migrants within the labour market, to recognise qualifications obtained elsewhere, if there is more freedom for people to choose how and where they live and work.

  1. The EU Dublin Regulation

The EU Dublin Regulation is an EU law on the rules about which country should assess your application for international protection. It stipulates that, in most cases, a person must be returned to the first country they entered the EU through if they wish to make a claim for asylum. This encourages people to remain undocumented for to avoid being returned to the first country of arrival. These are often countries where the situation for undocumented migrants is particularly bad e.g severe overcrowding in detention centres, long delays, inhumane conditions etc.

Remaining undocumented makes it very hard for people to access the labour market, housing, healthcare, social protection, as well as a sense of community and social life.

  1. Political inclusion

In most EU countries, electoral rights depend on a person’s residence status or nationality. The lack of representation of migrant women in assemblies and parliaments is very visible in Europe. In the European Parliament, less than 5% of of MEPs belong to a racial or ethnic minority, and an even smaller proportion are from a migrant background.

European civil society organisations are also guilty of excluding migrant women. Migrant women are only in 12% of leadership positions in organisations set up to assist migrant women.

Access to core long‐term funding is a huge issue for migrant women‐led organisations. Only 1.5% of EU gender‐based violence funding has gone to migrant women‐led organisations ‐ the rest has gone to large international organisations like the IOM, that do not have human rights or women’s rights at their core.

Consultations with migrant women are also often disingenuous.

  1. Language

The language civil society uses to speak about migrant women is important. Rather than referring to the “Global South”, “the Global Majority” is far more empowering. Similarly, instead of referring to people as “poor,” “impoverished” more accurately explains the role of policies and practices in causing poverty, rather than it being an inherent characteristic of some people.

  1. International Organisations and UN Processes

The Global Compact Migration (GCM) has in some respects acted as a distraction for civil society working in migration. It has required a huge amount of time and resources from civil society and there is a risk

that it will weaken the international migration movement by detracting resources and time towards something that may not have a huge impact on the actual policies and practices of states.

For example, at the EU level, the External Action Service leads on all GCM negotiations yet this body has no power over EU migration policies – migration is dealt with by Home Affairs. This shows the lack of seriousness with which the EU takes the GCM, which leaves open the question of how seriously civil society in Europe should be taking it.

3.       GAATW’s Next Steps


Throughout the course of the consultation, several observations were made about the role GAATW can play to support migrant women in Europe who are campaigning for change and championing their rights.

It was clear that GAATW can do more to work with migrant women to participate in international processes and to promote the inclusion of migrant women within discussion and policy spaces in both Europe and at the international level.

As an alliance of anti‐trafficking organisation, GAATW also has a role to play in shifting the understanding of anti‐trafficking efforts in Europe, from a narrow carceral and border‐control approach, to one that recognises the need to address global neo‐liberal economic trends, increasing gender inequality and the weakening of labour rights.

To this end, the GAATW International Secretariat has held follow‐up discussions with GAATW members who are currently working to reform EU Policy trafficking policies. From those discussions, we have identified two policy developments where we may be able to support the ongoing efforts of our members 1) the proposed European Parliament Resolution on Prostitution; and 2) the proposed revisions to the EC Trafficking Directive. These will be the focus of GAATW’s work in Europe over the next few months.

Press statement on reintegration support for returning migrant workers in Southeast Asia

Manila press statement

 In 2023, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) together with ten partner organisations from Southeast Asia and Europe researched Southeast Asian migrant women’s experience of migration to Europe, and of their reintegration at home upon return. Using a Feminist Participatory Action Research methodology, our research partners spoke with 329 Southeast Asian migrant workers in Europe and 121 returnees in Southeast Asia.

We found that in Southeast Asia, reintegration support for returning migrants varied from country to country but was generally insufficient. It was   usually  limited to training schemes, assistance to trafficking victims, and short-term financing schemes for self-employment. Furthermore, the business-focused nature of reintegration programmes presents individualistic solutions to what are often structural problems within the country and region. We found that what returning migrants most needed, but could not find, were stable, well-paid jobs and access to affordable, long-term psychosocial counselling and financial advice.

To build on the findings of this research, this week GAATW and Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (OPLE Center) carried out a two-day consultation involving 18 civil society organisations seven countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam). We discussed  the effectiveness of reintegration programmes and what policymakers and civil society can do to better meet the needs of returnee migrant women workers.

This consultation enabled an unprecedented dialogue among stakeholders concerned with the reintegration of returnee migrant workers in Southeast Asia, bringing together civil society representatives, women migrant leaders, and other actors to discuss reintegration challenges, successes, and best practices.

Over the course of these two-day discussions, we identified 10 priority demands to the Governments of Southeast Asian countries:

  1. A regional referral mechanism between ASEAN member states should be established for the purposes of cooperating to assist migrant workers in distress. This referral mechanism should involve civil society organisations, particularly migrant worker organisations. 
  2. Programmes and services of the national government agencies should be localised for easier and faster accessibility.
  3. Cooperation between destination and origin countries should be enhanced through binding agreements that recognise and respect the rights of migrant workers and include provisions for reintegration of returnee migrant workers.
  4. Returnee migrant workers should be consulted in the design and implementation of pre-employment and pre-departure programmes so that they are relevant and based on their knowledge and experience.
  5. Migrant workers’ experiences and analysis must be included in the design and implementation of all government, NGO and private sector initiatives are for migrant workers. 
  6. Reintegration programmes must be tailored to the diverse and long-term needs of returnee migrant workers.
  7. Social protection schemes should be made portable and the minimum contribution rates must be lowered to ensure that all migrant workers can access these schemes.
  8. Access to services and programmes for human trafficking victims and complaints mechanisms must be available to all migrant workers, including those who migrated irregularly.
  9. Governments should conduct public awareness campaigns to increase the recognition of migrant women’s contributions to society and  counter the social stigma  towards those  perceived to have “failed” in their migration. 
  10. Governments should simplify requirements for accessing reintegration programmes and support and popularise them to ensure that returnee migrants workers know about them and can access them.

For more information and for media enquiries please contact Maya Linstrum Newman, Advocacy and Policy Lead at GAATW International Secretariat,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.