Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 May 2020, 10:49 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Italy

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Italy, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 26 May 2020]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ITALY (Tier 1)

Italy is a destination and transit country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims originate from Romania, Nigeria, Morocco, Albania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, China, Belarus, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Ecuador. Children, mostly from Romania and Nigeria, continued to be subjected to sex trafficking and forced begging; some children were also subjected to forced criminality. Most male child victims of sex trafficking were Roma, but some were Moroccans and Romanians. A significant number of men continued to be subjected to forced labor and debt bondage, mostly in the agricultural sector in southern Italy and the construction and service sectors in the north. Recruiters or middlemen are often used as enforcers for overseeing the work on farms in the south; they are sometimes foreigners reportedly linked to organized crime elements in southern Italy. Immigrant laborers working in domestic service, hotels, and restaurants were also particularly vulnerable to forced labor. Forced labor victims originate in Poland, Moldova, Romania, Pakistan, Albania, Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, China, Senegal, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire.

The Government of Italy fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government generally continued to implement a flexible, victim-centered approach to victim identification and provided comprehensive protection and assistance to a significant number of trafficking victims in 2011. It continued vigorously to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders using its trafficking law. NGOs remain concerned, however, that the government's focus on the expedited return of illegal migrants – such as its efforts in 2009 to interdict African migrants on the high seas and deliver them to Libya, and to deport foreign women found in street prostitution without screening them for trafficking indicators – may have resulted in trafficking victims not being identified by authorities, and their being treated as law violators and thus penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Recommendations for Italy: Collect and disseminate comprehensive law enforcement data disaggregating forced labor from forced prostitution convictions; increase systematic efforts to proactively identify victims of trafficking; ensure specialized outreach and identification efforts extend to all vulnerable groups and potential trafficking victims, especially foreign migrants without status; standardize identification and referral procedures for trafficking victims on the national level to ensure victims are not inadvertently deported or otherwise punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked; implement proactive anti-trafficking prevention programs targeted at vulnerable groups, trafficked victims, and the larger public; establish an autonomous, national rapporteur to enhance anti-trafficking efforts and share Italy's best practices on victim protection with other countries.


The Government of Italy continued to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Italy prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through its 2003 Measures Against Trafficking in Persons Law, which prescribes penalties of eight to 20 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. In 2010, the government reported investigating 2,333 suspected trafficking offenders, compared with investigating 2,521 suspects in 2009. Italian prosecutors brought to trial 621 trafficking offenders, and trial courts convicted 174 trafficking offenders under Italy's 2003 trafficking law in 2010, compared to 166 convictions in 2009. The average sentence imposed on offenders convicted under the country's trafficking law was 6.5 years in prison. Trafficking offenders convicted for exploitation of underage prostitution and slavery laws were given sentences averaging 3.5 and 1.5 years, respectively. The government did not disaggregate its data to demonstrate convictions of forced labor offenders. The government continued to investigate acts of trafficking-related complicity involving officials, including the April 2011 arrest of two Palermo police officers for extorting women in prostitution; the government indicted one of the two policemen on January 18, 2012, and the other entered a guilty plea on January 25, 2012. The government did not report any further information regarding a May 2010 case involving the arrest of two police officers suspected of trafficking-related complicity in a nightclub in Pisa and a December 2009 case in which authorities charged two prison guards with exploitation of women in prostitution. In April 2011, a trial began for former Prime Minister Berlusconi for the alleged commercial sexual exploitation of a Moroccan minor. During the reporting period, the government continued to conduct specialized training on victim identification and investigation of trafficking for law enforcement agencies.


The Italian government continued its strong efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking by promoting a flexible, victim-centered approach to identifying potential trafficking victims. Although Italy does not have a formal reflection period during which trafficking victims can recuperate and decide whether to assist law enforcement, authorities informally grant this to victims and do not limit it to a finite number of days. NGOs praised the good results of this approach when combined with comprehensive assistance. The government reported it identified and referred for care 724 new trafficking victims in 2011, and it continued to provide comprehensive assistance to 836 victims referred in previous years. The government reported 23 percent of all victims assisted in 2011 were men, and 6.5 percent were children. Article 13 of the Law 228/2003 provides victims with three to six months' assistance while Article 18 of Law 286/1998 guarantees victims shelter benefits for another 12 months and reintegration assistance. Application of this article is renewable if the victim finds employment or has enrolled in a training program and is sheltered in special facilities. Foreign child victims of trafficking received an automatic residence permit until they reached age 18. Government funding for victim assistance, primarily through the funding of NGOs by national, regional and local authorities, was the equivalent of approximately $13 million in 2011.

Victims are not required to cooperate with police in order to receive a residence permit. The government reported it issued 1,078 temporary residence visas in 2011; although this number likely includes victims of other forms of exploitation. Further, it reported it issued 608 renewals of residency permits in 2011. The top three countries of origin of assisted victims were Nigeria, Romania, and Morocco. The government reported that 68 percent of assisted victims cooperated with police in the investigation of their exploiters. While there are arrangements at the local level to help guide officials in identifying and referring trafficking victims, the government has yet to adopt formal procedures on the national level for all front-line responders in Italy. NGOs reported the quality of the referral process for victims varied from region to region.

During the reporting period, the government continued to implement anti-immigration security laws and policies resulting in fines for illegal migrants and their expedited expulsion from Italy. Italian authorities did not screen these migrants to identify trafficking victims. In February 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Italian government's "push-back" policy, in effect for several months in 2009, of intercepting migrants on the high seas and sending them to detention camps in Libya violated the migrants' right to seek asylum and placed them at risk of hardship or retribution in Libya or in their country of origin.


The Government of Italy sustained its anti-trafficking prevention efforts in 2011. The Ministry for Equal Opportunity, through a committee that included independent experts and NGOs, completed Italy's first national action plan on trafficking and submitted the draft plan to Parliament in January 2012. According to country experts, the Eurozone crisis resulted in increased unemployment among foreign workers in Italy, thus increasing their vulnerability to exploitation. On August 13, 2011 the government issued a decree to criminalize and increase penalties for labor brokers who exploit vulnerable workers. The law provides sentences of five to eight years and fines; sentences are increased to 10-24 years for child victims or if victims are exposed to health hazards. The government demonstrated some transparency in its anti-trafficking efforts by maintaining a monitoring system on the regional and national level in conjunction with anti-trafficking NGOs in 2011, but it did not monitor or report publicly on its various measures to address the problem.

The Ministry of Tourism implemented a program from 2010 to 2011 to reduce child sex tourism by issuing certificates of responsible tourism to travel agencies and tour operators for their outreach to potential clients and implemented a country-wide media campaign to promote awareness among potential clients of child sex tourism. The Italian armed forces regularly continued to organize training to prevent the trafficking or sexual exploitation of women and children by Italian troops who are deployed abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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