Expert discusses responses to human trafficking by European human rights bodies

Author: Holden Perrelli

Mullally Klau Web

Siobhán Mullally, visiting professor from the National University of Ireland, Galway, discussed global human trafficking in a lecture Monday sponsored by the the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Klau Center. In her first-ever visit to Notre Dame, Mullally explained legal and policy initiatives to the European issue of trafficking in human beings to students and faculty.

Mullally serves as a human rights law professor and the director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She opened her lecture by explaining the United Nations Global Compact and current sustainable development goals with international trafficking law.

“Although it is a non-legally binding instrument, five countries — including the United States — voted against it,” Mullally said.

Developments with international law on human trafficking dates back to 1904, Mullally said. She broke down trafficking in human beings into three parts: act, means and purpose.

“The main focus has been on sexual exploitation,” Mullally said.

Much of the international level of debate on the subjects of criminalization and human trafficking has revolved around sexual exploitation, she continued.

“What is getting lost sometimes are the issues of labor exploitation, domestic servitude and broader areas where trafficking can occur,” Mullally said.

Mullally spoke at length about The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, or GRETA. Mullally currently serves as the president of GRETA, which is the Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking body. Her time with the organization has taken her around the world, examining a number of nations.

From France to Italy, Mullally discussed how a number of European countries are being reported upon and monitored for human rights violations.

“It’s quite a challenging time at the moment,” Mullally said.

Issues outlined by GRETA recently involved a crisis of protection with children from human trafficking in Europe.

“There have been gaps found in child monitoring,” Mullally said.

Mullally mentioned border concerns in countries like Bulgaria and Turkey where “a human rights-based approach is not being implemented.”

She also challenged border patrol agents along with social workers in Europe and around the world to combat the issue of human trafficking.

“It’s up to agents of the state acting in different situations to identify people as victims of trafficking and to refer them to a formal identification process of protection and assistance,” Mullally said.

She attributed shortcomings in these situations as a reluctance to recognize an individual as a victim of trafficking. Subtle forms of coercion exist in many places, Mullally said. From agricultural farms to military groups, improper monitoring may spawn trafficking in any situation.

“I think more recently [government focus has] become about how to control migration,” Mullally said. “There’s been a shift away from looking at the risks of exploitation. Victims of exploitation are looking for excuses to jump the immigration cue. Complaints brought forward are not being believed.”

The talk may be viewed in its entirety below.

Originally published by The Observer on Tuesday, April 2, 2019