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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Marguerite Remy
Coordinator Middle East and a Legal Researcher.

Marguerite is the coordinator of the team of legal researchers focusing on the Middle East and a legal researcher herself.

She developed her expertise in international human rights law, international criminal law and humanitarian law during her double bachelor in law and political science at Sorbonne-Paris 1 University and her LLM in public international law at Leiden University. Particularly interested in the Middle East for years, Marguerite has acquired a good knowledge of the region and its human rights issues through various field experience, including internships in a cultural service of the French embassy and in a local NGO, as well as a semester in a university in the region. Currently, her main interests are accountability mechanisms for crimes committed during recent armed conflicts, notably in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the Palestinian case at the ICC, and transitional justice issues.

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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.

Mattia Ruben Castiello
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Mattia is currently in charge of quality checking and improving all the social media and website handles of the Global Human Rights Defence.
With a bachelor in Psychology from Spain and a master in Cultural Anthropology from the Netherlands, Mattia’s passion now lies in Human Rights in regard to the refugee and migrant crisis. Having lived his whole life in East-Arica, Mattia has had the opportunity to work with a vast amount of non-government organisations and health institutions. This has provided him with knowledge in diverse cultural understandings as well as interest in concerning global issues.

Jeremy Samuël van den Enden
Coordinator Bangladesh & Communication Officer
Mr. Van den Enden has a MSc in International Relations and specializes in inequality, racial dynamics and security within international diplomacy and policymaking. He studies the contemporary as well as modern historical intricacies of human rights in the global political arena. Furthermore, Mr. Van den Enden assists GHRD in revitalizing its internal and external communication.
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As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Prerna Tara
Human Rights Coordinator

Prerna Tara graduated from Leiden Law School with an LLM in Public International Law. She practiced in the India before starting her Masters. She has assisted in pro- bono cases and interned at some of the best legal firms in India which has brought her face to face with the legal complexities in areas of corporate law, white collar crimes etc. Her work at GHRD deals with human rights research spanning throughout the globe.

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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.

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Bianca has widespread knowledge about social problems and human rights issues, with a specific focus on social justice in Africa and the empowerment of communities and individuals. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Stellenbosch University as well as a Master’s degree in Social Work and Human Rights from Gothenburg University. She has participated in courses on Women’s Leadership at Stellenbosch University, and has worked with organizations such as AIESEC towards furthering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She also has experience in working directly with marginalized and vulnerable groups in South Africa while qualifying as a Social Worker.
Bianca is the coordinator for a group of interns doing research and reporting on Human Rights topics in a range of African countries. Her focus is on ensuring that these countries are monitored and have up to date reports and research conducted in order to allow relevant and updated information to be produced.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
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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

Hiba Zene
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Hiba Zene holds a Bachelor’s degree in International and European Law from The Hague University and, has significant legal knowledge in the field of international human rights law. She actively advocates for the protection of all human rights of vulnerable minorities and marginalised groups. Focusing, specifically on the human rights of children and women in Africa.
Hiba is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. As a human rights defender for GHRD she has examined and investigated various human rights abuses, violations and issues in Africa. She has led research missions addressing issues on Statelessness in Kenya, Child Abuse in Uganda, and Teen Pregnancy in Kenya.

Thaís Ferreira de Souza
Coordinator and Head Researcher (International Justice and Human Rights)

Senior Paralegal at PGMBM (Amsterdam office), working to bring justice for victims of wrongdoing by big corporations, with a focus on human rights and environmental law.
Previously, Thaís worked as a Visiting Professional at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, providing legal advice on international human rights law and international criminal law. She also worked at the State Court of Justice of the Rondônia State (TJRO) in Brazil from 2013 to 2017, initially as a legal clerk and posteriorly as a legal advisor to judges. In 2016 she served as the regional representative of the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Procedural Law (IBRASPP) in the State of Rondônia, Brazil and during her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Research Group ‘Ethics and Human Rights’ of the Federal University of Rondônia for over three years.

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
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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.

Fabian Escobar
Coordinator and Head Researcher

My name is Fabian Escobar, L.L.B. International and European Law candidate to The Hague University. I was born in Honduras and been living in The Netherlands, more specifically Amsterdam the last 8 years. I am passionate about Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, fighting racism, and empowering women and ethnic minorities. In GHRD I am the coordinator for the Europe Team, I am thankful for being part of this team and that I have been given the opportunity to learn and apply my learning.