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03 September 2014

Seven questions on the FIDUCIA findings on Human Trafficking to Dr. Paolo Campana

Paolo Campana, Research Fellow, Department of Sociology and Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Paolo, you’re part of the Extra-legal Governance Institute at the University of Oxford. Tell us a bit more about the Institute.
The Extra-Legal Governance Institute (ExLEGI) is part of the Department of Sociology, and is headed by Prof. Federico Varese, also a member of FIDUCIA. ExLEGI promotes the study of ways in which economic and social activity is governed by institutions that are outside the realm of the state. These include Mafias, insurgents, pirates and cybercriminals, just to name a few. We typically look at issues like how criminals cooperate, how they structure their operations and how they take advantage of globalisation. And, of course, we try to devise evidence-based policies to tackle illegal activities.

What is your work about?
I mainly focus on organised crime in a variety of forms, ranging from fully fledged Mafia organisations to human trafficking rings. For my work, I often rely on evidence collected in court archives, including phone conversations wiretapped by the police. By coding the evidence in a systematic way, I am able to create networks of connections among criminals, and analyse them using quantitative techniques.

So you focus on criminal networks…
Precisely. I apply network analysis techniques to reconstruct criminal networks, and identify key players, subgroups, informal hierarchies, and instances of division of labour. I also look at how networks change over time, and what drives the change. When possible, I triangulate the quantitative evidence with qualitative interviews with key informants and other sources. It is a mixed methods approach: very rich, but unfortunately also very time-consuming!

What is your role in FIDUCIA?
I co-lead the Work Package on Human Trafficking, coordinating the activities of four distinct partners. In addition, I am carrying out novel research into human trafficking between Africa and Europe. With my colleague Federico Varese, we have also looked at the concept of human trafficking: its nature and boundaries as well as the emerging policy paradoxes that states invariably face when dealing with this phenomenon.

What are the preliminary findings of your work?
Nigerian trafficking is rather interesting due to the high level of “professionalism” and specialisation of the actors involved. To devise effective policies, we have to fully understand the mechanisms underpinning the work of these organisations, for instance who are the key actors and which roles they take on. Key actors may change depending on which stage in the trafficking process we are looking at. In my work I explore issues like who gives orders to whom, and who buys which service from whom. Just to give you an example, Nigerian ‘madams’ tend to buy trafficking services from individuals specialised in the transportation of victims. Transporters and madams tend to be fully independent, and based in different countries (Madams in Europe, transporters in Africa). It is the madams who create a demand for trafficking services. Unfortunately, sometimes the work of madams is not perceived as negative – illegal but not wrong. We might want to change this perception.

Trafficking is often linked with prostitution…
Yes, and this is rather controversial. As a society, we have to decide how we want to approach the individuals who buy sexual services. Are they part of the problem or, rather, part of the solution? We might want to educate the clients of sex workers to identify signs of trafficking and exploitation, and report these instances to the police. Of course, this implies building trust between clients and the relevant authorities. At the same time, it is crucial to build trust between victims of trafficking and authorities to help the victims break free. I also believe that ethnic communities can play a bigger role in our fight against trafficking. And let’s not forget that trafficking is also associated with labour exploitation. Often, better regulations and trust-based policies may have a larger impact than commonly thought, and they may also prove to be cheaper than the tough criminal measures that politicians often support.

What about the impact of your work outside academia?
As part of the FIDUCIA project, we have developed a very fruitful working relationship with Eurojust – the European Union Judicial Cooperation Unit – and specifically with the team specialised in trafficking and related crimes. We jointly organised a workshop at Nuffield College in Oxford in December 2013, and we are now developing a series of knowledge exchange initiatives. We are extremely pleased by this cooperation. In addition, FIDUCIA will play a key role in the upcoming conference of the European Union Crime Prevention Network specifically devoted to human trafficking. The event is part of the activities of the Italian Presidency of the European Union, and will be held in Rome in October. I will be giving a keynote speech as well as chairing the working group on the criminalisation of trafficking-related activities.