Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

ITALY: Tier 1

Italy is a destination, transit, and source country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims originate from Nigeria, Romania, Morocco, China, and other countries. Female victims are often subjected to sex trafficking in Italy after accepting promises of employment as waitresses, dancers, singers, models, or caregivers. Eastern European women and girls are forced into prostitution by Romanian and Albanian criminal groups. Nigerian women and girls are subjected to sex and labor trafficking through debt bondage and coercion through voodoo rituals. Experts estimate approximately 2,500 children are exploited in street prostitution. Men from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe are subjected to forced labor through debt bondage in agriculture in southern Italy and in construction, house cleaning, hotels, and restaurants in the north. Chinese men and women are forced to work in textile factories in Milan, Prato, and Naples. Children subjected to sex trafficking, forced begging, and forced criminal activities are from Romania, Nigeria, Brazil, Morocco, and Italy, particularly Romani and Sinti boys who may have been born in Italy. Transgender individuals from Brazil and Argentina are forced into prostitution in Italy. Unaccompanied children are at risk of trafficking, particularly boys from Somalia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Afghanistan who often work in shops, bars, restaurants, and bakeries to repay smuggling debts or send money to their families. Official complicity in human trafficking crimes occurs at the local level.

Experts believe the overall number of trafficking victims in Italy is increasing due to the dramatic rise in migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat escaping war and oppressive political, social, or economic conditions. One of the two main irregular migration routes used by smugglers and traffickers originates in East or South Asia, passes through Turkey and Greece, and crosses the Mediterranean Sea to Italy; the other route originates in Sub-Saharan Africa, passes through Niger and North Africa, and reaches Italy by sea. More than half of the 170,100 migrants who came ashore in 2014 were not identified by authorities, and many moved on to join relatives in northern European countries; some may have become victims of trafficking and exploitation. The Italian government houses migrants in temporary centers throughout the country; asylum seekers who leave the centers before their cases are finalized are at risk of being subjected to sex or labor trafficking. Approximately a quarter of the unaccompanied children who arrived in Italy in 2014 and left their protected communities to work, beg, or journey northwards are highly vulnerable to exploitation. Most migrants and asylum seekers rely on smugglers at some point during their journey and in some instances are forced into exploitation upon arrival in Italy.

The Government of Italy fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to investigate and prosecute offenders under the anti-trafficking law, though convictions decreased. The government increased identification of victims by 80 percent and doubled funding for victim protection, returning Italy to its 2012 level of funding, though victim needs continued to outpace available resources. The government coordinated an interagency working group to generate guidelines for victim identification and referral as part of a proposed national action plan, but postponed publication of the plan.


Increase convictions of traffickers resulting in dissuasive sanctions; improve efforts to screen irregular migrants and asylum seekers to identify possible trafficking victims, particularly in migrant reception and expulsion centers; increase efforts to identify victims of domestic trafficking, specifically among children from minority populations forced into prostitution, begging, or crime; provide appropriate services for labor trafficking victims and discourage demand for forced labor by increasing thorough labor inspections; formalize victim identification and referral procedures and consistently train law enforcement and other officials on their proactive application; provide adequate long-term funding to NGOs assisting victims; develop specialized services for child trafficking victims and expand accommodation for male victims; establish a national coordination structure that involves all relevant public bodies and civil society organizations; finalize and implement a national action plan; and implement nationwide awareness raising activities on all forms of trafficking.


The government continued efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers, but decreased convictions. Italy prohibits all forms of trafficking through its 2003 Measures Against Trafficking in Persons law, which prescribes penalties of eight to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Authorities investigated 3,803 suspected traffickers in 2013, the most recent year for which law enforcement statistics were available, an increase from 2,270 suspects in 2012. The government prosecuted 1,024 defendants in 2013, an increase from 805 defendants in 2012. In 2013, 74 traffickers were convicted and appeals courts affirmed the convictions of 108 defendants, representing decreases from the 135 traffickers convicted and 121 convictions upheld in 2012. The government was unable to provide complete data on sentences imposed during the reporting period, but reported some convicted traffickers received prison sentences ranging from five to 13 years. The government did not disaggregate law enforcement statistics involving sex and labor trafficking crimes but historically has prosecuted both. The training curriculum for law enforcement agencies included victim identification and investigation of trafficking and exploitation crimes, though the government lacked a systematic approach to training public officials. The Italian foreign ministry suspended Italy’s ambassador to Turkmenistan after he was arrested in the Philippines for child trafficking and abuse. Despite incidents of local government officials involved in trafficking, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.


The government improved protection efforts. With government funding, NGOs assisted 810 victims of sexual and labor exploitation in 2014, a large increase from the 447 victims assisted in 2013, though well below the 2,018 victims assisted in 2012. Approximately one quarter (203) received official trafficking victim status. The vast majority of victims (595) were females subjected to sexual exploitation, of whom 24 were girls; 215 were victims of labor exploitation. The government granted 381 foreign trafficking victims temporary residence permits in 2013, but it did not provide the number of permits granted in 2014. Victims were not required to cooperate with law enforcement to obtain a residence permit, but experts reported victims were often expected to give information to law enforcement. Eighty-two victims collaborated in the prosecution of traffickers, though experts have noted witness protection is rarely available to trafficking victims.

The government allotted 8 million euro ($9.86 million) to trafficking victim assistance programs implemented by NGOs in 2014, a 60 percent increase from its 2013 allocation. Victim assistance programs also received approximately 2.7 million euro ($3.27 million) from local and regional administrations and the EU. NGOs reported insufficient funding to meet victim assistance needs. Victim services lasted three to six months; shelter and reintegration assistance was available for an additional 12 months. Male victims were accommodated in separate shelters run by NGOs, though space was limited. Child trafficking victims received an automatic residence permit until they reached 18 and were accommodated in generalized children’s centers; specialized services and shelters for child trafficking victims did not exist. Experts criticized disparate levels of assistance across the country. Referral processes varied from region to region and were based on memoranda of understanding signed between local police and NGOs. According to NGOs, trafficking victims amongst irregular migrants, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied children went unidentified due to inconsistent application of identification criteria by officials. Under Italian law, victims were not punished if they were forced to commit a criminal offense as a result of being subjected to trafficking; however, there were reports some victims were charged with immigration-related crimes.


The government sustained limited trafficking prevention efforts. The government did not finalize its first national anti-trafficking action plan, despite a March 2014 legislative decree requiring it to do so. It also did not implement any nationwide public awareness campaigns. The government lacked a national anti-trafficking coordinator, and there was no national rapporteur to conduct independent evaluations of anti-trafficking efforts. The government’s hotline for victims of trafficking received over 4,000 calls for information in 2014, of which 769 were directly related to trafficking. Local authorities and NGOs continued to distribute brochures, posters, bumper stickers, and media advertisements providing information on victim assistance. The government coordinated an interagency working group to generate guidelines for victim identification and referral as part of the creation of the national plan. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Italian troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.