Inspectorates and cross-border cooperation

Cooperation between source and destination countries of THB for labour exploitation is essential because of the cross-border nature of THB for labour exploitation. By working together, source and destination countries will be able to tackle the whole trafficking network, instead of just part of it in one country.

Since most labour inspectorates do not have investigative powers, they can only cooperate on labour law, not on criminal law. They could for example cooperate on:

  • joint inspections of companies in the destination country, including interviews with workers
  • parallel investigations (under labour law) in the source and destination countries
  • exchange of information on companies (employers) situated in other countries, for example on violations that companies have committed
  • posting constructions (see below).

Posting constructions seem to be used increasingly as a cover-up for illegal labour. For example, letterbox companies may be set up from which workers are posted to other countries where they have to work in exploitative conditions, or workers may be forced into a self-employed statute.

Cooperation on any of these subjects could lead to the discovery of a case of THB for labour exploitation. This means in most countries that the police must become involved.

Cooperation at EU level

To improve cross-border cooperation between labour inspectorates against THB for labour exploitation at EU level, inspectorates could:

Take part in meetings of EMPACT THB

More information about EMPACT THB.

Send labour inspectors to take part in operational and coordination meetings at Europol and Eurojust

Funding for labour inspectors to take part in operational meetings could be provided under EMPACT or by Europol.

Share information through the different systems available

To cooperate against THB for labour exploitation, labour inspectorates need to be able to share information. For example, when companies are active in several member states, it could be useful to inform the labour inspectorates in those other countries when the company has been sanctioned for breaches of labour law. See the Guidelines for businesses for more information.

Before exchanging information with other countries, it may be necessary to find out if this is allowed under the rules for data protection.

When labour inspectorates want to contribute to cross-border cooperation against THB for labour exploitation, they could share their information through Europol:

  • SIENA:
    Europol has indicated that it should be possible for labour inspectorates to exchange information using SIENA through the Europol liaison desks. Labour inspectorates could pass information to their national police force, and they can pass it to their Liaison Desk in turn. This way labour inspectorates’ information becomes police information and can be shared with others through SIENA.
  • Focal Point (FP) Phoenix:
    It would be possible to include information from labour inspectorates in Europol’s database to be used by FP Phoenix. Information from labour inspectorates can be included in the same way that it can be exchanged through SIENA.
  • EIS:
    Labour inspectorates could also share information with the Europol Information System (EIS) in the same way as described for FP Phoenix.

The page EU tools and networks has more details on all these information systems.

Second an investigator from the labour inspectorate to Europol

See Cross-border cooperation at EU level for more information.

Bilateral and multilateral cross-border cooperation

To improve bilateral and multilateral cross-border cooperation between labour inspectorates against THB for labour exploitation, they could:

Have joint or parallel inspections

Labour inspectorates could second staff temporarily to join an inspection in another country. They could for example help to break down cultural and language barriers during interviews with migrant workers or victims from their country. Seconded staff 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 or investigate cases along the whole length of the supply chain.

Parallel inspections that are carried out in two or more countries can also be useful. For example, to compare the explanations that different branches of the same company in different countries have given for the labour situation. If the explanations do not match, there may be something wrong.

The United Kingdom has set up a model for joint inspections.

Read more