Joining NGO forces to fight human trafficking in Austria

Caroline Sander

In the case of human trafficking, there is a complex interplay of supply and demand amongst perpetrators, abusers, profit-takers, exploiters and users causing a long chain of actors which must be broken in order to stop and effectively prevent this atrocious crime. [1]

Considering the number of actors involved in the network of trafficking and exploitation, it becomes clear that we also need the collaboration of a variety of actors if we want to effectively combat human trafficking.

Non-profit organizations, especially those working in the refugee sector, many times come into direct contact with victims of trafficking in their daily work, but do not necessarily have all the knowledge and means to help and do not know who to contact. On the other hand, they have firsthand knowledge on the vulnerabilities and individual circumstances and needs of people at risk. This is why in 2015, several non-profit organizations founded the Austrian Platform against Exploitation and Human Trafficking ( with the objective to combine their resources, learn from each other and work together to raise more awareness and elaborate ideas to enhance the prevention of human trafficking and the support of its victims. Despite of different views, e.g. in regards to the abolishment of prostitution as a means to reduce the demand for trafficking for sexual exploitation, the different NGO actors focus on their common goal and have already taken significant steps together:

After a press conference in 2017 to present itself to the public, the platform organized its first symposium on November 6, 2018 on the topic: “Trafficked persons – invisible or entitled to rights?”

In the afternoon session during which governmental and non-governmental experts discussed the access of victims to their rights without prosecution, the platform coordinator, professor Katharina Beclin from the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology of the University of Vienna, took the opportunity to present a paper produced by the members of the platform. In the paper, which was later distributed to the different relevant governmental actors, members call for the legal implementation of a reflection period of at least 30 days that should be able to be requested for victims by different actors, such as NGOs, so that victims would not need to speak to any governmental actors such as the police if they were too afraid to do so. Further, the paper calls for a residence permit for personal reasons as suggested in Article 14 of the Council of Europe Convention on Actions against Trafficking in Human Beings[2] instead of only offering a residence permit for reasons of investigation or criminal proceedings.

After this very successful symposium with many participants, the platform members are hoping that victims in Austria will be able to gain better access to their rights in the future.

[1] European Commission: Second report on the progress made in the fight against THB, Brussels, 03.12.2018
[2] Council of Europe: Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Warsaw, 16.05.2015,

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