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Human Trafficking: « The Repatriation of Victims is an Acute Issue »

In April 2015, at the 21st session of the Papal Academy for social sciences, Yves Charpenel, the President of the Scelles Foundation, presented « an evaluation of the French law on the repatriation of trade victims ». One year later, when the recorded documents have just been put on line, what is the situation in France ?

Vatican - Traite des êtres humains :  « Le rapatriement des victimes est un problème aigu »


One of the April 2016 law’s goals against the prostitution system is to reinforce victims’ rights : creation of a way out of prostitution, implementation of a dedicated departmental commission, simplified delivery of the residence permit… First of all these measures aim to make sexually exploited victims’ administrative situation more secure, providing them with alternatives to prostitution and, in the case of victims of sex trafficking, favoring the option of the return to the country of origin.


As a matter of fact, relocation to the country of origin is considered as the ultimate rehabilitation for these victims. This return to the country should not occur outside a specific course taking into account the risks relating to repatriation (retaliation or risk of falling back into traffickers’ hands). This is what Yves Charpenel claimed, in 2015, at the 21st session of the Papal Academy for social sciences («Human Trafficking: Issues Beyond Criminalization”).The Scelles Foundation president had presented “An evaluation of the French law on repatriation of trade victims” and identified the main stakes in relation with the victims’ return to their country of origin.


Intervention d'Yves Charpenel au Vatican

>>> Read speech by Yves Charpenel (in English): “An Evaluation of Repatriation in French Law”

>>> See the video of Yves Charpenel’s intervention (in French)




Coordinating the fight against human trafficking and the immigration laws

As the great majority of victims who are present on the French territory are usually foreigners who are brought into the country illegally, any policy against trafficking and for assistance of its victims comes into conflict with the requirements of the policy controlling migrant flows. How to coordinate the combat against human trade and immigration laws? The issue is much more acute than the social and judiciary proceedings of a victim which costs the host country a lot of money; resorting to repatriation, either chosen or not, may appear as a quick and economical “solution”.


Several provisions have been introduced into the French law so as to provide trafficking victims with an alternative to forced repatriation in case of an immigration laws violation: in particular, authorized delivery of a residence permit for humanitarian reason, or on condition that a criminal complaint has been filed (articles 316-1 and 313-41 of the code for the foreigners’ entrance and stay and the asylum right- CESEDA). However, due to the lengthy proceedings and the victims’great vulnerability, most of these provisions are almost useless.



Cooperating for greater efficiency

Yves Charpenel mentioned that 3 conditions are required for an efficient policy against human trafficking: “a strong political will”, “a global established policy combining victim identification and reinforcement of the fight against criminal networks” and “an effective and powerful national and international cooperation”. Yves Charpenel illustrated his points with several examples of bilateral co-operations, with Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia which allowed both to establish a collaboration in terms of police inquiries and to organize the chosen repatriation of several dozens of victims.


>>> To know more: Scelles Foundation, “Role of Bilateral Cooperation in the Fight against Sexual Exploitation”, in Prostitution. Exploitation, Prosecution, Repression. 4th Global Report, 2016.


As a conclusion, Yves Charpenel highlighted a few significant points for the progress of the combat against human trafficking: a higher respect of the conventions on immigration in terms of people’s dignity and rights, effective implementation of assistance measures for victims, promoting aid for the victims who cannot or do not want to co-operate, a better policy for training actors, real awareness campaigns such as inquiries so as to prevent people from seeing these people as criminals.


As of today, the April 2016 law against the prostitution system addresses in parts these requirements; in that sense it constitutes a positive advance in the fight against human trafficking. There is also another encouraging progress; the creation of a co-ordination committee against human trafficking by the MIPROF (Interministerial Mission for the protection of female victims of violence and the fight against human trafficking) occurs when the 2014-2016 1st national plan against the trade comes to a close. The political will is obvious. Let us hope now that financial means will allow the concrete implementation of these measures.

All of the recorded documents of the 21st session are available in English:


The Scelles Foundation in the press

  • (ES - Milenio) El ser humano no está a la venta
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