Improving and sharing knowledge on the Internet role in the human trafficking process

Improving and sharing knowledge on the role of internet in the human trafficking process - national report Romania.1-page-001Improving and sharing knowledge on the Internet role in the human trafficking process. Authors: Bianca Toma, Alexandra Toderita, Alexandru Damian. For the past years since it was accepted as a member state of the European Union, Romania has been one of the main source countries for victims of human trafficking, both in labor exploitation and in sexual exploitation. The total number of victims of trafficking identified in Romania between 2011 and 2015 was 4,622 where 54% were trafficked for sexual exploitation, followed by labour exploitation (34%) and forced begging (6%).International evaluation reports has recently highlighted the need for comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of the Romanian legal framework addressing the human trafficking both repressive and preventive measures, paying special attention to Roma communities and migrant children.  The evolution of technologies and the accessibility of the internet has been described as a new facilitator for the traffickers as more and more data and assessments sent signals and warnings of the role which different social networks, websites and social media tools could play in the recruitment of victims of the human trafficking.

The current report, based on the main findings on a quantitative and qualitative research, focused on a deep exploration of the Romania website and other related online tools and on a series of in-depth interviews with key informants, provides a very specific focus highlighting the use of Internet in the recruitment, transportation and advertisement of services in the processes of trafficking in human beings and smuggling of human beings (THB and SHB). From the sample analyzed for the project, it was found that the main modalities used by traffickers/smugglers to recruit and transport their victims/clients using website were job offers that promised high pay grades and free transportation, often times accompanied by free accommodation. The main modalities used by traffickers to offer the services provided by their victims in the Web (or Deep Web) are online ads, and, with a lower frequency, Facebook ads or Facebook pages. Due to precarious legislation and a lack of procedures in enforcing certain laws, video chat studios are borderline legal in Romania, hence some of the included links are for recruitment ads for such establishments.

Regarding migrant smuggling, the research has proven quite difficult and many of the websites in Romanian found that might pertain to this crime were directed towards people from the Republic of Moldova. The ads mainly consisted in assistance with paperwork, such as visas and work permits, and very few mentioned very discreet transportation. Romania is not a popular destination country for refugees or immigrants. Although smuggling networks might span various countries, including Romania (at least as a transit country), recruitment and advertising for such services are unlikely to be done in Romanian. The findings of the interviews reveal that the internet and mobile apps are being used in THB especially in the recruitment phase, to a lesser extent in the exploitation phase and almost not at all in the transportation phase; additionally, these are being used seldom, if ever, in the migrant smuggling process.

The project “ Improving and sharing knowledge on the Internet role in the human trafficking process is funded by the European Commission, DG Home Affairs, under the Prevention of and Fight against crime Programme – ISEC 2013. The consortium implementing the project is coordinated by “eCrime – ICT, law and criminology”, research group within Faculty of Law, University of Trento – Italy and composed of Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) – Bulgaria and University of Teesside – United Kingdom. Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE) and Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy (IRES) are sub-contractors having as main objective implementing the project activities in Romania.

The project overall aim is to improve knowledge and share of best practice on the use of Internet and social networks in topics concerning trafficking of human beings and smuggling of migrants and asylum seekers. Trafficking in human beings (THB) and smuggling of migrants has seen important changes in the last decade, adapting to the ever changing technological possibilities (use of websites and social media platforms) and social contexts. As Europol 2014 Intelligence notification highlights „internet is a key facilitator for THB with a significant impact on the entire trafficking chain from recruitment and transportation to the harboring of the victims and their actual exploitation. The recruitment of victims increasingly takes place online”.