The role of labour inspectors in combating human trafficking and forced labour in Europe

The meeting serves as a kick-of for ILO’s initiative to strengthen the role of labour inspectors in the national response against forced labour and trafficking. In the framework of this initiative, the ILO is currently developing comprehensive training materials to be used by labour inspectors.

Labour inspectors can play a key role in the identification and protection of victims as well as in prosecution. However, the complex nature of modern forced labour has made the identification of victims and prosecution of offenders difficult. Despite almost universal ratification of ILO’s Forced Labour Conventions and prohibition of forced labour in most national law, the concept remains poorly understood. There is still considerable confusion over the distinction between forced labour and sub-standard working conditions, as well as related concepts such as human trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom and slavery-like practices. Impunity or low sanctions that are not an effective deterrent explain in part the continued use of forced labour. Another contributing factor is the weak protection afforded to victims of forced labour hence reducing the likelihood of self-identification.
The meeting will bring together senior labour inspectors from 10 European countries and international experts. It is designed as a high-level meeting to discuss and share experience in the fields of policy and legislation on investigating and prosecuting forced labour, identification of victims of trafficking for forced labour, cooperation between law enforcement agencies, addressing forced labour exploitation in the informal economy and in the sub-contracting chain, and the work with employers on how to achieve compliance with labour law.