New Phase in Turkey’s Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings

Emergency helpline campaign for trafficked persons, IOM Turkey.

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, human trafficking has emerged as one of the major transnational phenomenon affecting Turkey. Responding to the problem, the country has developed a comprehensive countertrafficking policy and programme implemented by the Government.

Turkey’s geographical location, its dynamic economy and political stability make the country an increasingly attractive destination for immigrants. Today Turkey receives people needing international protection, seasonal workers, highly qualified professionals, students and retired Europeans. Increasing numbers of irregular migrants also arrive in Turkey looking for employment opportunities, in addition to trafficked persons.

Governmental efforts to combat human trafficking

The national counter-trafficking policy became particularly active in 2002, when Turkey ratified a number of key international treaties, made the necessary revisions in national legislation, and established an inter-institutional coordination mechanism by creating the National Task Force on Trafficking in Persons. Among other actions, the government introduced flexible arrangements for prolonged-residence permits to assist trafficked persons and opened shelters for trafficked women. The 157 Emergency Helpline was also created, in 2005, for trafficked persons and has helped to rescue 166 persons since then. The helpline was established and is managed by IOM and is intended to be handed over to the Government in the coming two years. In total, the Turkish authorities have been able to identify more than 1,300 trafficked persons between 2004 and 2012. The majority of them were sexually exploited women aged 18 to 25 and came mainly from the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Turkey recently conducted a self-evaluation of the effectiveness of its efforts in combating human trafficking. Identified good practices include consistent monitoring of the implementation of laws related to trafficking in persons, as well as training of the judiciary, which were both found to have increased the number of prosecutions. The Supreme Court of Appeals has also provided guidance to the judiciary by handing down more than 40 decisions related to various forms of human trafficking. The training of law enforcement officials have also improved the effectiveness with which human trafficking is investigated. Other good practices identified include partnerships with NGOs in assisting trafficked persons and the establishment and promotion of the 157 Emergency Helpline.

It was also found that some of the National Referral Mechanism’s measures and cooperation mechanisms were no longer efficient. The evaluation demonstrated that issues such as root causes, particularly demand, as well as gender, labour and migration regulations, needed to be dealt with in a holistic way.

These conclusions have prompted the Turkish government to carry out a thorough reform of its migration policy. The aim is to establish a normative framework for an effective and human rights-based migration management system that responds to new migration dynamics and the varied needs of the country. These wide-ranging efforts also include drafting a new framework law, Combating Human Trafficking and Protection of Trafficked Persons. Complementing the new law, the Government also facilitated, in 2012, new registration and work permit procedures particularly focusing on undocumented domestic workers, in order to prevent labour exploitation and forced labour. Premiums were reduced and work permit procedures simplified, which resulted in an increase in the number of work permits issued; while only 422 work permits were issued for domestic workers in 2011, the regulation allowed for the issuance of 8,878 work permits in 2012. Inspections are carried out by the inspectors of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Social Insurances Institution to ensure that employers and foreigners comply with their respective obligations under the law.

Launch of the IOM ‘Buy Responsibly’ campaign in Turkey

The IOM ‘Buy Responsibly’ campaign has been implemented in several countries in Europe and will start in Turkey in 2013. The campaign aims at preventing trafficking in persons for forced and/or exploited labour by raising awareness on the link between everyday products and the exploitative conditions under which these goods may have been produced.

IOM will organize a communication effort in order to target the demand for unreasonably cheap or exploited labour in Turkey, as a destination country, where exploitation is more likely to occur. The campaign will encourage conscientious consumers to ask themselves ‘What’s behind the things we buy?’ and thereby examine if everyday goods or services they buy are the results of trafficked, forced and/or exploited labour.

A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) conference will be held as well on migration issues that are often not incorporated into the CSR objectives of private companies (e.g., human rights and forced labour). The purpose is to establish partnerships between ethical consumer networks and privatesector companies with the aim to go beyond minimum standards.

Download PDF