Next seminar of the PAHT project takes place in Stockholm

The Stockholm seminar of the Parliamentarians Against Human Trafficking project was held in the Swedish Parliament on Friday 15 March 2013.

Prior to the meeting, parliamentarians, NGOs and others with an interest in anti-trafficking work met for a welcoming reception on the evening of Thursday 14 March, hosted by HE Adam Halacinski, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Sweden, at the Polish Embassy.

The seminar started with an official welcome to the Swedish Parliament by Susanne Eberstein MP, Deputy Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, together with Anthony Steen, Chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation and Johan Linander MP and Caroline Szyber MP.

The first presentation of the morning was delivered by representatives from the Swedish Police. They explained how Sweden focuses predominantly on trafficking for sexual exploitation and how greater regional cooperation would require a broader mandate in order to effectively tackle trafficking, especially of children.

Next followed a discussion chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss (UK) on how to stabilise anti-trafficking parliamentary groups in each EU country and firmly cement them into the parliamentary structure. Robert Biedron MP (Poland) suggested a system of sub committees within other parliamentary groups or establishing permanent specialist groups focusing on trafficking. He also advocated using virtual groups to facilitate communication between countries.

Representatives from Norway and Sweden explained that in their parliaments trafficking was primarily the responsibility of the Select Committee on Justice, but was also dealt with to a lesser extent by a multitude of other committees.

In Lithuania, trafficking is the responsibility of the Human Rights Committee. In addition, a separate Parliamentarians Against Human Trafficking committee has been established to broaden the number of parliamentarians able to participate to include those from the Social Affairs and Justice Committees.

The next session started with a presentation by prosecutors Anna Lena Nilemar and Sara Lindqvist from the Swedish International Public Prosecutions Office. They underlined the regional differences that exist across Sweden in prosecuting trafficking, with the main focus being centred on the three major cities. Most prosecutions come about through people being prosecuted for buying sex. The Swedish justice system also works closely with Europol and Eurojust in order to maximise cooperation across Europe.

Andre Oktay Dahl MP (Norway), Heike Rudat (Berlin Police) and Maria Stenberg MP (Sweden) also provided their perspectives on the effectiveness of police cooperation on trafficking in their countries.

Senator Matz presented the situation in Belgium, with prosecutors taking a pragmatic approach to the problem and seeking the easiest prosecution rather than trying to obtain a prosecution for trafficking.

The afternoon session commenced with a parliamentary panel on regional cooperation, featuring contributions from Frank Field MP (UK), Senator Vanessa Matz (Belgium), Caroline Szyber MP (Sweden) and Robert Biedron MP (Poland), chaired by Angie Bray MP (UK).

Robert Biedron MP (Poland) emphasised that a common approach to the problem is needed and that existing legislation (such as the EU Convention) should be used more effectively.

Finally, Helena Karlen (Sweden) gave a presentation on the work of ECPAT Sweden in tackling child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism.

The project is grateful to Johan Linander MP and the staff of the Swedish Parliament for their help in arranging the seminar, and to the Embassy of the Republic of Poland for hosting the welcoming reception.