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Balancing protection and prosecution in anti-trafficking policies

A comparative analysis of reflection periods and related temporary residence permits for victims of trafficking in the Nordic countries, Belgium and Italy

image of Balancing protection and prosecution in anti-trafficking policies

When victims of trafficking are identified in a country of destination, they are often in a situation marked by lack of clarity. In response to this, most European countries have a so-called reflection period for victims of trafficking, typically lasting from 30 days to six months, during which the victim cannot be sent out of the country, and where he or she can reflect upon the above issues and receive assistance. The intention of the reflection period is to help protect victims, but also to prosecute traffickers. How can these two – sometimes conflicting – goals best be met? This report discusses implications of the models in the Nordic countries, Belgium and Italy.

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Conclusion and recommendations

As the preceding discussion has shown, reflection periods exist in a nexus between human rights, criminal justice and immigration policy. They are intended to support two very different goals; the recovery of and social support to victims, and the prosecution of traffickers. Further, trafficking victims find themselves in very different situations and have a variety of needs and aspirations. This huge disparity among victims indicates a need for flexibility, while at the same time, they move within systems (such as immigration legislation and the justice system) that rest on the rigour and clarity that are necessary for predictability and equal treatment. Finding a perfect policy design to suit all of these needs is complicated and inevitably requires compromise.

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