NGO Statement to the Committee against Torture on Trafficking in Human Beings in Greece
Thursday, December 2, 2004 9:25 AM

  • Centre for Research and Action on Peace (KEDE)
  • Coordinated Organizations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece (SOKADRE)
  • Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM)
  • Minority Rights Group - Greece (MRG-G)
  • Support Center for Children and Family - Social & Education Action
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

19 November 2004

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, I am Zoe Alahouzou, representing the “Centre for Research and Action on Peace.” I will address combating trafficking in persons -Item 21 in your List of Issues on Greece.

Our NGO, inter alia, coordinates a network of NGOs working on combating trafficking in persons. In June 2004, we submitted a 26-point memorandum to the authorities highlighting the main concerns that have rendered the new legislation of little effectiveness. This memorandum is presented to you today [see below]. We regret to say that we have since seen some improvement in only two points. A few weeks ago, a law turned residence permits for trafficking victims also into work permits (point 13). Moreover, last week, the competent ministries held the first ever meeting with NGOs (point 26).

Yet, relevant new legislation is being prepared without prior consultation with NGOs. Only eight victims have valid residence and work permits, as the country’s two main regions of Attica (Athens) and Thessaloniki have refused to issue law-mandated permits to victims who are waiting for in some cases- over a year.

The courts, with some exceptions, do not seem to show particular interest in prosecuting traffickers properly and within reasonable time. In our alternative report submitted to your Committee, we have provided details on Greece’s two high profile cases, concerning Olga B. and Gina M. Both date from 1998 and have not led to irrevocable judgments nearly seven years later: in the meantime, traffickers have fled; many trafficking related charges misdemeanors at the time- were or are being dropped for reasons of statutory limitation; bailiffs serve summons to irrelevant addresses; prosecutors send invalid summons or refer cases to irrelevant courts; while our repeated calls for the punishment of judicial officers responsible for all these irregularities have remained unanswered. Let alone that judges spend hours interrogating trafficking victims on the stand about their rape to ascertain if, they might have consented to having sex with clients …

From media stories, we are aware that, in a handful of cases, under new legislation, there have been some notable convictions in first instance for traffickers arrested in 2003. Yet, we would like to mention the most recent ruling by a Three-Member Appeals Felony Court of Thessaloniki on 9 November 2004, leading to a six-and-a-half year prison sentence for only two of the six defendants [Ta Nea, 10-11-2004]. The victim even though reportedly given the new law’s protection- did not appear in court making it impossible to prove some of the charges.

At the same time, a few days earlier, it was reported that traffickers briefly arrested in Thessaloniki for one case in June 2004 (a young Ukrainian victim jumped from the window to escape and injured herself very seriously) were not remanded in custody, only to be arrested again for running another trafficking operation in November 2004 [Ta Nea, 4-11-2004]. In another June 2004 case in Veroia (of a young Lithuanian jumping from the window to escape and seriously injuring herself), the traffickers, despite having similar prior charges against them, were not remanded in custody either. While two Russian victims, who escaped their traffickers in Syros in December 2003, live in scare as, eleven months later, the judicial investigation is still at the preliminary inquiry stage: no charges are pressed and thus the traffickers continue to walk and work freely in a known address in Athens…

UN CAT should urge Greece to institutionalize cooperation with NGOs so as to secure comprehensive effective protection and redress for trafficking victims. Greek courts should also swiftly and effectively investigate such cases and duly punish traffickers as well as all others helping them, including at least negligent judicial officials.



17 June 2004

I. Positive points:

1. The existence of a legislative framework which, despite imperfections, allows the effective combating of trafficking as long as there is the requisite will of all involved state institutions as well as systematic collaboration with NGOs.

2.  Large number of police operations resulting in the break-up of trafficking rings and the release of over 300 victims after the coming into force of Law 3064/2002.

3.  Important financing of NGOs from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s Hellenic Aid for relevant projects, that include shelters and legal aid for the victims.

4.  Regular collaboration between the responsible department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the NGOs.

5.  Positive cooperation (though insufficient in scope) between NGOs and relevant departments in Hellenic Police and the Regional Authorities. 

6.  Delayed but definitive resolution to the problem of issuing residents permits to the victims.

II. Problems

7.  Ineffective, non-comprehensive information of, support to and protection of the victims with the result that, from the 300+ released victims, less than 20 have been sheltered by NGOs and almost none remains in the shelter, nor is involved as civil claimant in the litigation and thus have the right of compensation.

8. Absence of certification criteria of shelters creates obstacles in their operation. Need for integration into a single system of operation of both state shelters and NGO shelters -that function with government provided financing and in practice are already social laboratories for the effective support of victims.

9. Need for close cooperation with NGOs to take advantage of their experience for the operation of the new state-run shelters.

10. Granting identical status to NGO shelters and to state shelters under creation with the units providing support and protection listed in Presidential Decree 233/03 in order that, inter alia, victims turning to them are recognized as such.

11. Inadequate or no police protection of shelters and victims in their necessary movements.

12. Absence of clear and direct process of recognition of victims by public prosecutors in every case (instead of current indirect recognition through suspension of deportation).

13. Existing legislation does not provide for work permit for the victims, essential not only for reasons of income but for psychological rehabilitation as well.

14. Existing legislation does not provide for residence permits for the victims pending trials for charges related to trafficking (eg. rape), when they are (inappropriately) separated from the trafficking trials by the courts.

15. Very few victims in litigation cases are effectively at the disposal of justice, especially if repatriated.

16. There is no reliable and systematic statistical data on the progress of the cases, once referred from police to the courts, with the exception from unreliable data given to the US Embassy in Athens.

17. Despite repeated and documented charges of, at the very least, criminal negligence of some judicial officials that led to invalid summons and statute of limitation, there has been no investigation of the charges and sanctions for officials responsible.

18. The judicial investigation into the case of the disappearance of 500 Albanian street children, victims of trafficking, was not assigned to a magistrate but, rather, to the Athens Security Police Minors’s Unit, involved in the disappearance.

19. Judicial officials do not appear to be informed of the relevant international practice. So that, for example, in investigations and trials, they would not seek the existence of consent of trafficking victims nor treat as mere illegal prostitution and not rape the sexual intercourse between victims and clients (sometimes even police officers) who are defendants.

20. Absence of effective program of comprehensive legal aid for all victims from the day of arrest until the court’s irrevocable sentencing to ensure some parity of representation between victims and organized crime rings that themselves are represented systematically by many experienced and well-paid lawyers.

21. Total absence of care for, and protection of, trafficking victims not arrested by police when breaking up criminal rings; these victims are not covered by the legislative framework while sometimes they are detained.

22. Absence of collaboration between NGOs and police during the period immediately after arrests, as outlined in the draft memorandum of collaboration submitted by NGOs to the Ministry of Public Order, still under examination.

23. Refusal of most competent Ministries (except Foreign Affairs and Health) to meet with NGOs, despite relevant requests made.

24. No activation of the institutions outlined in Presidential Decree 233/2003 for the support and protection of children and female victims of trafficking.

25. Absence of any kind of information or record of police activities in regard to child victims and any possible aid or protection offered.

III. Basic Request by the NGOs of the “Galatsi Group”

26. Requested meeting simultaneously with the competent officials of all agencies involved for the thorough discussion of these problems, the mapping out of a systematic collaboration for their resolution and the joint development of a National Plan of Action. The response from the State is pending. The objective of this collaboration is to secure the comprehensive and effective implementation of the legislation, the comprehensive and effective support and protection of victims, the comprehensive and effective punishment of traffickers, as well as systematic and effective briefing and sensitization of public opinion targeting also prevention.

  1. Amnesty International -- Greek Section
  2. Center for Research and Action on Peace
  3. Center for Research and Support of Victims of Ill-treatment and Social Exclusion
  4. Center for Support of Family of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens
  5. Center for Support of Repatriated Migrants
  6. Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and Other Forms of Ill-Treatment
  7. Doctors of the World
  8. Doctors Without Borders, Greece
  9. European Women's Network
  10. Greek Helsinki Monitor
  11. “Klimaka” - Agency for the Development of Human and Social Capital
  12. Medical Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
  13. Mediterranean Women's Research Center
  14. New Life
  15. Social Aid Greece
  16. Social and Educational Action Center for the Support of Children and Family
  17. Transparency International - Greece

Cited from: Balkan Human Rights Listserve, posted 26 November 2004 by Greek Helsinki Monitor.