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The Status of Safe Houses?

Posted By: michelle

This is a blog in response to the blogs of Jennifer Hollinger, another AP fellow working also on the topic of trafficking in the UK and Albania. Jennifer has noted that in the 2007 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report put out by the US State Department, the UK has been recommended to increase bed space for trafficking victims. From Jennifer’s experience in the UK, she has seen that, in fact, the UK is tight on space in their safe houses for trafficking victims.

From the meetings I have sat in on here with TAMPEP in Italy, I have heard repeatedly that many of the safe houses here in Turin are nearly empty. I cannot say if this is true in all of Italy, only that in Turin, the bed space is apparently not lacking. Looking at what the 2007 TIP report says about Italy, we, in fact, do not see the same recommendation to increase bed space. What it does suggest, I will address later this summer…

Both political and more subtle reasons exist to explain these nearly empty communities, ready to welcome more girls in need. Unfortunately, we cannot say that a decrease in victims is the cause.

First, it should be clarified that the communities are not actually all nearly empty – maybe only those that, in the past, were used to working with Romanian girls. Less girls from new EU member East European countries are entering the communities because they now have less reason to denounce their traffickers. Romania joined the European Union this year on January 1, 2007. Since then, Romanian victims of trafficking no longer need a residence permit to stay legally in Italy. They can stay for 90 days, like any other tourist, and return home with their earnings. Before, Romanian girls partially chose to denounce their traffickers under Article 18 of the 1998 Italian immigration law because doing so would get them this residence permit. With the permit, they were no longer residing illegally in Italy and they could legally apply for jobs. Now, they do not need all that paperwork to come stay legally for short amounts of time.

According to ONE person, even girls not from new EU countries, like Nigerians, also have less motivation to denounce their traffickers and therefore escape to the safe houses. They say that girls and boys trafficked into Italy are not treated as badly as before. Perhaps before, girls received zero or very small percentages of their earnings from their Madams. Now, the girls might receive as much as 40 percent of their earnings, they are also beaten less and not treated as poorly. The madams have lessened the severity of exploitation, and the girls are able to spend more money on themselves. The girls, or boys, prefer to continue working on the streets given the lack of, or very low paying, jobs available to foreigners illegally present in Italy. They, also, therefore, now have less motivation to denounce their traffickers.

What has happened? Has trafficking in Turin, for SOME, essentially become more democratic? The Madams or pimps, very slyly, have given their “citizens” more choice in order to avoid more rebellions? Like in many other cases, the market rules. It seems some traffickers have adjusted their business schemes to keep themselves running smoothly.

According to a colleague at TAMPEP, however, this last explanation is a bit too generalized. TAMPEP, for example, has many Nigerian girls it is currently helping to make denouncements and put into communities. TAMPEP still sees many sad cases of pretty harsh exploitation.

So what is the current scene? I’m still struggling to figure that out. This summer, the Italian government is in the process of changing its immigration law. So, in conclusion, the situation on the streets and in the courthouses might be changing… I will keep you posted with updates!

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O, Sick Children of Albania
For the crime of being an Albanian, a seven-year-old girl can not get a visa to travel to Italy once a month for a blood transfusion that will keep her alive. This is the story of one of my work colleagues, Iris*. Her daughter, once a pretty, happy gir...
07/16/07 @ 12:18

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Originally from Omaha, Nebraska and a big family of nine, Michelle has just graduated this May from Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She majored in science and technology in international affairs with a concentration in international health.

During college, Michelle participated in many social justice activities and groups, including the Georgetown-UNICEF club, Education Without Boundaries – Project Argentina, and Global Justice Now – the Student Campaign for Child Survival. Michelle loves language learning and has been studying Italian and Arabic for several years; she had the chance to practice these language skills as an intern at the US Embassy in Rome and while studying abroad at the American University of Cairo in Egypt.

Michelle’s interest and passion for studying migration and health issues began with her decision to write her senior honors thesis on the health statuses of Arab Muslim immigrants in Italy and their problems with accessing health care. Michelle feels called to help give women more choices and respect in today’s world by helping them gain more economic freedom and experience less fear of violence and exploitation.

This year, Michelle will work as an Advocacy Project (AP) Peace Fellow. AP is sending her to work with its partner organization, Transnational AIDS Prevention among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe Project (TAMPEP) in Turin, Italy. TAMPEP works to prevent and protect victims of human trafficking. Michelle will support the NGO in its efforts to identify and reach out to trafficked women and children, and to provide comprehensive services and safe alternatives. The goal is to eradicate violent and sexual exploitation of women and children.

Michelle’s objectives are to assist TAMPEP in its efforts to gather, organize and distribute information, in addition to participating in the organization’s everyday work with the trafficked women in order to gain a more local, on-the-ground perspective of the highly complex human rights issue of trafficking.

Through outreach efforts, both while in Italy and upon return to Washington, DC, Michelle will advocate for TAMPEP and spread awareness about its work and about trafficking in general, focusing on current efforts against trafficking in the US, Europe and Africa.

I would like to give special thanks to the sponsor of my fellowship, Irene Crowe, and many thanks to everyone else that has helped me get to Italy!

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