Joint pledge: responding to human trafficking of migrants in Europe

Michael Meyer
Head of International Law
British Red Cross


  • Explore strategies to improve the British Red Cross (BRC) response to the humanitarian consequences of human trafficking among migrants, in accordance with the RC/RC mandate, auxiliary role to States, and the Fundamental Principles:
  • The British Red Cross has been developing its response to trafficking on a concerted basis since 2014. The BRC has included “developing a response to trafficking” in its 2015-2019 Corporate Strategy and the 2017 Strategy specifically highlights the anti-trafficking response as a key priority area under the heading of support for displaced persons. Responding to the needs of trafficked people will remain a priority for the organisation going forward.
  • In line with this Strategy, the BRC is expanding its operational work in the UK. The BRC provides support to trafficked people at various stages of their ordeal. We focus on filling gaps in the sector and working to strengthen the sector as a whole by working in partnerships.
  • In addition, the BRC is working to strengthen the wider Movement response to trafficking by supporting other components of the Movement to improve their own capacity to respond to trafficking.
  • Use a victim-centred approach in all responses and advocate that victims must be recognized as such and provided with appropriate support and protection, which should be unconditional and irrespective of their cooperation in criminal procedures and legal status
  • All of the work on anti-trafficking by the British Red Cross consistently advocates for a victim-centred approach. However, this can at times be challenging, as the BRC is often the only organisation emphasising the need for informed consent of the beneficiary by ensuring he or she is fully aware of what is happening. The BRC takes its role in this very seriously.
  • The BRC has included the requirement to consult with the intended beneficiaries of its projects in the design and development of project outputs. Consequently, we run focus groups and we have bi-lateral discussions on the development of materials for the STEP and MMPAT projects (please see the comment below).
  • Bilaterally and/or through the European Anti-Trafficking Network, share best practices on the British Red Cross response to human trafficking. This could include awareness-raising, assistance to and protection of victims, humanitarian diplomacy, and/or training of relevant staff and volunteers on identification of possible trafficked persons and assistance:
  • The BRC Anti-Trafficking Programme Manager (Kathryn Baldacchino) co-chairs the European Anti-Trafficking Network. As part of this role, Ms Baldacchino promotes this pledge; develops guidance for National Societies on how to build responses to trafficking; map the work of National Societies in the Movement; fosters links with other networks in the Movement; and provides support to other National Societies and the IFRC to develop their response to trafficking. The European Anti-Trafficking Network also organises an annual meeting, several newsletters, and other opportunities to share practice and ideas.
  • The BRC co-ordinated and funded a webex/teleconference in April 2017, which provided an opportunity for National Societies to discuss their work on humanitarian diplomacy in relation to trafficking.
  • The BRC entered into a partnership with the Netherlands Red Cross and the Croatian Red Cross on the STEP Project (EU funded). Within this partnership we are working to develop ways to better identify and respond to trafficking along the migratory trail in Europe. This Project will build materials and tools for the humanitarian sector to be better resourced to respond to trafficking. This project will also address the longer term support/integration programmes for trafficked persons in the UK and Croatia.
  • The BRC has partnered with the Italian Red Cross on the MMPAT Project (DFID funded), which will develop the capacity of the Italian Red Cross to identify and respond to trafficking among those asylum seekers and migrants they support. This Project will also build tools and materials for use by other components of the Movement.
  • The BRC has had conversations with the Asia Pacific Migration Network and the IFRC Migration Coordinator for Asia, looking for ways to support each other. However, these discussions are still at an early stage.
  • The BRC has also contributed to the IFRC Europe Office protection discussions about integrating anti-trafficking considerations into protection modules and responses.
  • Engage in a dialogue with state and civil society organisations working in the field of human trafficking and strengthen cooperation with stakeholders that assist and/or protect (possible) trafficked persons; and consider measures or humanitarian diplomacy to protect vulnerable migrants and those at risk, especially unaccompanied minors, from falling into the hands of traffickers
  • The BRC has been working on developing its humanitarian diplomacy work. Our messages are centred on protecting vulnerable migrants from being trafficked and protecting those people who do end up victim to trafficking. Our current messages have four elements:
    • Improve availability, and quality of support and protection to trafficked people within the UK;
    • Improve the conditions (reception and procedural) of the asylum system for trafficked asylum seekers
    • Address the policy issues that make certain groups of migrants vulnerable to being trafficked once they are in the UK; and
    • Improve safe and legal routes for migration so that migrants are not unnecessarily put at risk of dangerous or exploitative journeys; this includes improving family reunion policies and Dublin Regulation reunifications of children in Europe.
  • The BRC fed into the Netherlands Red Cross research paper on Humanitarian Diplomacy in relation to trafficking; drawing on its experience influencing the approach used by police in Derby when responding to trafficking.
  • The BRC has been working to improve its data collection systems so that it is now in a better position (in 2017) to provide evidence for our key messages and requests.
  • The BRC is also working to develop improved working relationships with statutory and non-statutory bodies.