The case of witchcraft and voodoo rituals being used to force victims of trafficking in persons into prostitution is well known (UNODC, 2008). Victims are convinced that if they flee or refuse to work before paying their debt, terrible curses will fall on them or their families. Law enforcement actors work with priests and cultural leaders to heal victims so that they feel able to cooperate in the criminal justice process. There is evidence that some organized criminal groups rely on these practices more so than others. Thus, it is fair to assume that the same practices may be used by smugglers. The response of law enforcement in terms of trafficking in persons was successful and similar approaches should be followed as much as possible.
Defendant 1, originally from Nigeria, addressed in that country a woman (D.) of humble origins, promising work and a better life in Spain for a fee of 30 000 Euro. With that purpose, D. left for Morocco, where she remained nearly three years waiting for Defendant 1 to bring her to Spain. Finally, in 2009, Defendant 1 facilitated the illegal entry of D. and her five-year-old child, by sea, in Algeciras (Spain) for the fee of 18 000 Euro. D. then travelled to Madrid (Spain) by bus, where she was received by Defendant 1. They immediately travelled by plane to Gran Canarias (Spain). D. used the passport of another person, which was given to her by Defendant 1. D. lodged in the residence of Defendant 1, together with the latter's husband (Defendant 2) and another woman. D. was immediately forced to work as a prostitute by the defendants to pay the costs of the travel to Spain. Furthermore, D. should pay the costs of living, notably (i) 125 Euro for water and electricity, (ii) 50 Euro for food, (iii) 200 Euro rent. In addition, she was to pay 300 Euro to Defendant 3 for taking care of her child while she was working as a prostitute. Both D. and her son were physically abused as a means of forcing D. into prostitution. Likewise, she was threatened with harm on her and her relatives, notably through voodoo rituals. In this manner, the Defendants managed that D. always delivered the total amount of her gains at the end of the day. Defendant 2 was in charge of taking note of the payments done.
Note: This case illustrates the close dynamics between migrant smuggling and TIP, whereby smuggled migrants may easily become victims of trafficking but also that elements of smuggling, e.g. in relation to facilitation of border crossing will be found in trafficking cases. This point will be dealt with in Module 6. This case was prosecuted as an instance of migrant smuggling but involved also elements of human trafficking. The deciding Court acknowledged that migrants' vulnerability (financial, linguistic, social, cultural) is key for criminals' success. For instance, voodoo rites may hold a victim hostage more effectively than physical abuse.
SHERLOC Case Law Database on the Smuggling of Migrants - Spain
Another example of 'thinking outside the box' with the purpose of developing more robust investigations and prosecutions is proposed by an Italian Prosecutor, Salvatore Vella (video only available in Italian). He explains the major challenges posed by the lack of qualified and reliable interpreters, noting he often must resort to other migrants to do the work which, although not ideal, might be the only practical and available means in certain cases. In response to this challenge, Mr Vella recommends that law enforcement issues a call for applications specifically targeting law enforcement officials who are native-speakers of the languages of relevance. He notes that, given the great influx of migrants for several years, the children of migrants who arrived several years ago in Italy would be perfect candidates. Not only do they speak the language, they also understand the culture of irregular migrants, their fears, pressures and ethnic dynamics.