Global Human Rights Defence

Human trafficking in Europe

“Educating the public raises awareness and fosters a sense of responsibility – as bystanders, consumers and concerned citizens, we all have a part to play in preventing and countering human trafficking.”

(United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2021)

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its fifth global reporting      January 2020 just before the COVID-19 epidemic was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to UNODC (2020), the report is “mandated by the General Assembly through the 2010 Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons” (p. 4). In 2021, the report was edited in order to include the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic      which has taken      a toll on the professionals who tackle human trafficking.

Western versus Eastern Europe

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report of 2021 published by the US Department of State, the European countries still have a long way to reach the minimum standards of action when tackling human trafficking (The Journal, 2021). Recent statistics have shown a pattern: a significant group of victims are from Central and South-Eastern Europe and are brought into the Western and Southern European countries (UNODC, 2021). The current rate of people from the South-East     has decreased in comparison to the numbers from 2014 (UNODC, 2021). Nevertheless, this does not necessarily indicate a decline in the number of victims as they can also be nationals of Western countries. Additionally, despite the proximity between the two subregions, most of the victims come from Sub-Saharan Africa also defined by UNODC (2021) as “the largest non-European region of origin of detected trafficking flows into Western and Southern Europe” (p. 135). 


Human trafficking is now criminalized in most of the Western and Southern European countries. According to UNODC (2021), the rate of convictions in this region exceeds the global average – the rate exceeded the average for the first time in 2011 and has stayed above since then (p.137). A Europol report (2016) on human trafficking which was assessed the situation in Europe at that time stated that in 2014, 69 % of suspects were European nationals. These suspects came from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia (Europol, 2016, p. 13). However, the rest of the suspects come from European and non-European countries such as Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia (Europol, 2016, p. 16).

Contributing factors 

As stated in the Europol report (2016), “victims may be experiencing family problems, a lack of employment opportunities or lack of education” but they can also experience “gender discrimination or inequality in the labour market” (p. 10). These circumstances are often the key elements traffickers make use of in order to take advantage and exploit their victims. There are also cases when the victims are refugees fleeing conflict zones to look for a better life (Europol, 2016). 

Forms of exploitation

Human trafficking can take different forms. The most common are sexual exploitation, forced labour, and criminal activity (UNODC, 2021). In Central and South-Eastern Europe, women are disproportionately affected by the trafficking in person, with 53% of women being victims of human trafficking compared to 21% men (UNODC, 2021, p. 139). Sexual exploitation is the most prevalent form of trafficking with an overwhelming difference between men and women in the same region – 59% of the victims are women, 35% are girls, while men represent 2% of the victims and boys 4% (UNODC, 2021, p. 140). 

The intersectionality 

Comelli (2021) investigates the case of a female climate refugee in order to better understand the ways in which the climate crisis is linked to gender inequality. Such cases indicate how global issues are interrelated, making it difficult to tackle them individually without looking at the bigger picture. Sunita lost her main source of income, her land due to climate change and, as a result, she moved to Italy (Comelli, 2021). According to Comelli (2021), “Sunita is just one of the many immigrant workers who get exploited on a daily-basis through a ruthless network of illegal labour”. Unfortunately, gender inequality adds another layer to the problem and prejudices that exist in societies around single mothers makes it more difficult for Sunita to take care of her and her child (Comelli, 2021). However, the climate crisis also exacerbated gender inequality, disproportionately impacting women (Comelli, 2021). Considering that the majority of victims of human trafficking are women, the case of Sunita is not an exception. When women find themselves in a vulnerable position due to issues such as gender inequality and climate change, they are more prone to be targeted for exploitation. 


The context of human trafficking in Europe proves that there is still a long way to go towards a more efficient strategy to tackle the issue. Each country plays a role in this as well as the European Union that represents a strong power within the region. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is a contributing factor to the issue making the fight of reducing human trafficking more difficult. For this reason, but also because of how complex global problems are, countries need to invest more in how they tackle and approach these issues. On one hand, human trafficking exists on the local level but on the other hand, human trafficking is dependent on the advantages that globalisation brings with it. Collaboration is the first step in order for governments, NGOs, and other actors to be able to address the issue and make significant progress. 


Comelli, E. (2021). Helping female climate refugees escape trafficking. Independent. 

Europol. (2016). Situation report: Trafficking in human beings in the EU. 

The Journal. (2021). Ireland ranked worst in western Europe for tackling human trafficking for second year. 

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2020). Global report on trafficking in persons 2020. 

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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.