The general objective of HEAL was to facilitate the integration of third country national women victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation through promoting a comprehensive healing process based on competence-building, psychological support to women and enhanced cooperation between key actors.
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HEAL promoted a multi-layered action addressing women`s needs of psychological support, employment- related skills acquisition and rights awareness, while fostering stronger collaboration and networking between key stakeholders for the support of third country national women victims of trafficking, namely support service providers and employers, both at local and transnational level. A comprehensive healing process complemented by rights awareness action was delivered for women victims of trafficking, to support them in coping with the trauma from the trafficking experience. It contributed to their recovery and integration in the long run: the competence-building trainings enhanced their employability opportunities, and facilitated their economic integration, self-reliance and independence, which led to them being less vulnerable to (re-)trafficking and becoming active members of the host societies.
The HEAL database (www.yourcareerpath.eu) developed within the Recovery and Integration Programme serves as a concrete tool for employment and recruitment, allowing to match their skills with local employers demands, preparing the ground for a durable interaction between the employers and the women beyond the project duration.
Trafficking in human beings is a serious crime and major violation of individual fundamental rights and dignity. It is prohibited by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and addressed through a legal and policy framework which places focus on the need for human rights-based and gender-specific approaches, given that its most commonly reported form within the EU is for sexual exploitation (67%), with the majority of victims being women and girls (95%).
The illegal and highly isolating condition of women victims of trafficking often means that they are not able to exit the exploitative market, with two major repercussions on their well-being: on the one hand, being involved in an illicit activity makes them unable to access the labour market through legal means, especially in the case of third-country nationals; on the other hand, being under the strict control of their traffickers, or simply detached from the broader social system of their host societies, women victims of trafficking are also particularly vulnerable to a lack of either knowledge of or access to the rights they are entitled to and the services of support at their disposal.
Although the specific nature of trafficking in human beings differs between EU countries, the above-mentioned repercussions on third-country national women victims of trafficking are apparent everywhere. Perhaps due to the geographic vicinity with countries of origin in the trafficking business, countries of southern Europe report high levels of THB, while often lacking the instruments necessary to fully counteract the phenomenon.
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It is estimated that approximately between 75,000 and 120,000 women in Italy are sex workers, and that at least half of them is from other countries, 36% of whom from Nigeria. However, instruments to accurately collect data on THB and therefore identify and assist victims in Italy are still limited. This instance suggests that it is ever more urgent to implement actions aimed at integrating victims, as well as at increasing their access to and awareness of their rights.
Greece is both a transit and destination country for victims of trafficking. However, due to deficiencies in victim detection and identification, the actual magnitude of the problem is significantly underestimated. In addition, Greek law, policy and practice have so far placed little attention on integration, which is not even defined as a clear goal of Greek law and policy. Hence the special needs of victims of trafficking are not an explicit consideration in the legal system and in the social support structures available nationally.
Spain is a source, transit and destination country for victims of trafficking. A high percentage of women victims are from South America, China and Nigeria, and a large percentage of sex workers in the country are victims of trafficking under the control of Nigerian, Romanian and Spanish trafficking networks. Authorities have in recent years collaborated extensively with NGOs for the identification of victims and their support. However, increased training of government officials and other stakeholders would help boost Spain’s capacity to assist and integrate victims of trafficking.
Sexual exploitation is the main form of trafficking in Romania, with 47% of victims being children, and 78% women. Although identification efforts are made, inconsistencies persist in the identification and referral mechanism used by the Police. Similarly to Greece, policy and legal efforts in Romania have been focusing more heavily on immediate assistance, with fewer efforts placed on trauma response and healing through psychological support services.
three macro-types of activities in Italy, Spain, Greece and Romania:
1) Activities aimed at gaining better and common understanding of the perceived needs of the three key groups of women victims of trafficking, service providers, and potential employers, and the specificities of these in the different national contexts;
2) Activities aimed at increasing interaction between these groups, both locally and at the EU level;
3) Activities leading to the design and implementation of the Recovery and Integration Programme, providing innovative and flexible methods for the psychological assistance of victims on the one hand, and for the transfer of employment-related skills through a multi-disciplinary training, transferable to different contexts.
The following main methodologies were applied in HEAL:
An ethno-psychiatric approach draws from the belief that trauma cannot be treated with a universal perspective, but rather that the way in which the individuals recount their traumatic experience based on cultural constructs can be a starting point from which the practitioner can help them process the trauma and heal from it. Women victims of trafficking became story-tellers of their own traumatic trafficking experience, based on the belief that they can provide the necessary
cues for recovery.
Visual art is recognised as a powerful tool for psychological support and coping with trauma. HEAL proposed the development of fanzines as an expressive tool helping women elaborate their trauma by using a combination of words and images to share their stories.
Fanzines are informal, non-commercial, non-professional means of conveying feelings which are meant to stimulate women’s creativity and ensure their active role in their healing process while following a psychological process in a safe and comfortable environment.
Peer learning was encouraged throughout the training and psychological support sessions. Peer-to-peer sessions were arranged with the active participation of trained women as role models, to reach out to additional women victims of trafficking and multiply HEAL’s impact.
Intercultural communication facilitated interaction between different groups and helped to overcome prejudice and stereotypes.
The action carried out by HEAL fostered an integration process for third country national women victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in their host societies in Europe, thus contributing to making the European Union an area of freedom and safety, based on cooperation between Member States and in full respect of the rights of third-country nationals.
Recognising economic independence and psychological wellbeing as fundamental pre-requisites of real integration, HEAL provided new instruments and approaches, which directly benefited the involved countries, and will be able to be transferred after adaptation to different EU countries. In addition, the activities implemented focused on providing victims of trafficking in human beings with better awareness of and access to the rights they are entitled to across different countries and systems. It did so bearing in mind the specific conditions of both victims and services available for their support in the different partner countries of the project, conscious that the methodologies of the action must be tailored locally so as to respond to the individual needs of the groups involved.
A better integration of women victims of trafficking in the involved countries
benefited each hosting society, turning women’s abilities into an asset
for each local community.
D2.1 – National Reports on Needs Assessment – May 2020
D2.2 – Public Round Table Report – August 2020
D2.3 – European Anthology of best practices and future recommendations – October 2020
D3.1 – Toolkit for psychological support session “Fanzines and coping with trauma” (as a part of the Recovery and Integration Programme)– December 2020
D3.3 – HEAL database
D3.4 – The Fanzines Book
D4.1 – Communication & awareness-raising strategy – December 2019
D4.2 – Project’s website & social media pages – December 2019
D4.3 – Project’s visual identity – December 2019
D4.4 – Online communication materials
D5.2 – Ethics Policy – April 2021
FUNDING PROVIDED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION