Bilateral and multilateral cross-border cooperation

Not only EU cooperation, but also bilateral and multilateral cooperation against THB for labour exploitation is very important. Member states could for example set up a structural cooperation with the main destination and/or source countries of the victims they come across.

In order to work together bilaterally or multilaterally, member states could examine opportunities for closer cooperation. They could for example:

Have regular bilateral meetings

Source and destination countries could organise regular bilateral meetings to discuss their cooperation in general and ongoing cases in specific.

Second experts to embassies to improve operational cooperation

Posting liaison officers to embassies from agencies such as the police, the border guards, the prosecution service or other (criminal) investigative services could have great added value to solve cases of THB for labour exploitation and to recognise patterns and trends.

Second staff temporarily for inspections or investigations

Police forces or labour inspectorates could second staff temporarily to join an investigation or inspection in another country. They could for example help to break down cultural and language barriers during interviews of migrant workers or victims from their country. They could share their knowledge about the situation in their own country, identify any violations of their own legislation and report this back to their organisation. Finally, they could help to collect evidence from their country. This would make it possible to inspect and to investigate cases along the whole length of the supply chain.

The UK has set up a model to undertake joint cross-border inspections.

Raise awareness in source countries through embassy staff

Destination countries could hire (local) staff members in the main source countries of victims of THB for labour exploitation to work as policy officers at their embassies. They could inform potential migrant workers about working in the destination country and thereby hopefully prevent problems. The Embassy of the Netherlands in Poland, for example, has produced a video for Polish workers going to work or already working in the Netherlands.

This dedicated staff member could also facilitate closer cooperation between the labour inspectorates of both countries and represent the country at conferences and other events. If it is not possible to hire a dedicated staff member, embassies could be sent materials to distribute to potential migrants.

For example, Malta hosted an information event for ambassadors. A training session for Diplomatic and Consular Staff took place within the framework of the Annual Ambassadors’ and Biennial Honorary Consuls’ Meeting, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malta. The meeting brought together Maltese Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls that represent Malta overseas. In 2015 the Ministry for Home Affairs and IOM provided the Diplomatic and Consular personnel with information on their role in identifying, protecting and assisting victims of THB, as well as on general global and regional trends, the Maltese legal framework and context.

As a follow-up to this event a leaflet is being drawn up, which will be translated into various languages. The leaflet will be given to persons who wish to come to work in Malta by Diplomats and Consular Officers. The leaflet gives information about labour conditions and wages in Malta, as well as awareness about exploitation and information about where to call for assistance.

Assist migrant workers in destination countries through labour attachés

Source countries could introduce dedicated labour attachés at their embassies in the main destination countries. They could assist workers from their countries with any problems they may run into regarding living and working in the destination country. For example, about health insurance, pension arrangements and so on. This could include helping workers that have become victims of THB for labour exploitation. The attachés could also facilitate cooperation between the labour inspectorates of both countries.

For example, Bulgaria has social and labour attachés of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) at Bulgarian Embassies abroad. These attachés have knowledge of the Bulgarian and foreign laws governing social policy and employment relations. They can help to identify victims of THB for labour exploitation and refer them to the right organisation.

Sign (bilateral) MoUs

Organisations such as prosecution services, police forces or labour inspectorates could draw up (bilateral) Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), in which they agree to improve cooperation and the exchange of information.

Organise study visits or exchanges

The relevant organisations (such as labour inspectorates) could organise a study visit to another member state, to become better acquainted with each other’s systems and to improve personal contacts.

Organise joint seminars for source and destination countries

Source and destination countries could organise bilateral seminars or conferences. These could inform a larger group of staff members about the relevant powers and working procedures in both countries, and about the situation regarding THB for labour exploitation.

Share expertise on training

Source and destination countries could share their ideas about training and materials for training. Or they could even consider organising a training exchange. All countries share similar challenges; joint training enables them to learn from each other.

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