Interview: Dr Heracles Moskoff

Earlier this month we spoke to Dr Heracles Moskoff, the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, Greece about the realities of human trafficking in Greece and what the challenges are going forward.

Dr Moskoff, can you tell us about the situation of human trafficking in Greece?

Human trafficking has been an issue in Greece since the late 1990s. Since then we have had a law against it. There was a global alliance around this time against trafficking, so most of the countries in the EU are accountable to that and have to comply with regulations and legal frameworks that have been signed and ratified [Palermo Protocol] . The legal framework is very ambitious, solid and strong but there is an issue, not just in Greece, which is the onus of this legislation, the implementation of it and this has a lot of challenges.

In the last five years we have had a big influx of migrants and refugees, so we have to take into account the nexus between smuggling and trafficking, which is changing the perspectives and the way we identify potential victims. The key term is ‘potential victims’ because, if we leave this job exclusively to the law enforcement agencies then the numbers of people we are able to help, assist, rescue, are just in the hundreds. Whereas, if you can involve more stakeholders in the identification of potential victims, like frontline professionals, then you can identify more victims and really change the game.

In Greece are the Church and law enforcement working together on this issue?

I wouldn’t say they do in Greece and this is really the added value we see here in the Santa Marta Group. What we have are other bilateral partnerships, like with our Ecumenical Patriarch the head of the Orthodox Church, who is supporting the Pope’s vision and also other Churches that are participating.

For us the challenge is to bring it down to the local level, to involve the laity and introduce this issue into the liturgy. It’s very important to talk about this issue that is happening before our eyes, because unfortunately people are not really acknowledging this as an issue.
They think it is normal or they don’t see it and turn a blind eye. They feel that a lot of the victims are not victims and that they are a threat to them because they are migrants and hence carry a stigma.

The UN sustainable development goals state that trafficking and modern slavery should be eradicated by 2030, do you think this is possible?

This is interesting because when you try and speculate about the future you usually have a pessimistic outlook.

I’m afraid we will not eradicate it by that time.

What I hope is that both law enforcement and civil society and the Church can create a new narrative that will make it harder for people to be trafficked, that will create obstacles for traffickers.

For example, the private sector and supply chains, the idea of corporate social responsibility and human rights education in schools. This will be a game changer, people will not demand trafficking. Human trafficking is supply and demand, so we should shift the emphasis onto demand we can change the game.