ASSIST: Improving supports for victims of trafficking across Europe
Last week the Immigrant Council hosted an update meeting on our current anti-trafficking project with our European partners, ASSIST: Gender Specific Legal Assistance and Integration Support for Third Country National Female Victims of Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation.
Working with partner organisations in Germany, Italy, Scotland and Spain, the project is seeking to develop improved approaches to integration for trafficked women recovering from sexual exploitation. The initiative takes specific account of the gender dimension of trafficking in Europe and the gender specific harms and trauma associated with trafficking for sexual exploitation.
In our latest group think-in, partner organisations working with victims of trafficking shared updates and noted that for everyone, dealing with and responding to mental health featured greatly in their work. Lawyers from the Immigrant Council outlined their experiences with two current clients who are victims of trafficking. They highlighted the vulnerabilities, needs and individual nuances of each case, as well as the complexities the women faced navigating the various systems and structures. The lack of a stable immigration status and access to basic supports were identified as major barriers. A huge amount of sensitivity is required from organisations to ensure adequate support is given.
As part of the next stage of work, the ASSIST project will work to build better support mechanisms for victims of sex trafficking by training mentors who have personal experience and an awareness of the needs and vulnerabilities of individuals. Partner organisations gave status updates regarding the identification of these potential mentors. This is a highly innovative part of the programme of work which empowers those who have previously been exploited in the sex trade to be trained to become peer supporters for other victims.
Priority activities for the ASSIST project include:
- Providing direct assistance to victims, including an individual assessment of the trafficked victim and their circumstances (e.g. identification status, residency status, personal circumstances, stage of the recovery process) and legal assistance and advocacy support to the victims;
- The establishment of a pilot survivor mentor programme, whereby survivors who have recovered and integrated will be recruited and trained as peer mentors to recently identified victims of trafficking;
- The development and production of information materials to inform victims of their rights and the available supports and services;
- The development and production of a compendium of best practice guidelines and principles in the provision of gender-specific assistance and support to facilitate integration, based on the learning from the project.
This project is funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.