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Summary

Italy is bound by a number of international treaties and other instruments covering human trafficking and smuggling.  Due to its geographical location, Italy is a point of convergence between the European continent and other regions from which intense human trafficking takes place.  Italy has enacted domestic legislation prohibiting the exploitation of human beings in its different modalities, including prostitution and other forms of abuse of persons in situations of vulnerability.  The Italian Criminal Code contains specific provisions punishing conduct that relates to the trafficking and smuggling of persons.  These provisions have been included in the Criminal Code over the years, pursuant to Italy’s obligations arising from international instruments and European legislation.  Several government agencies at the national and the regional level cooperate to provide integral assistance to trafficking and smuggling victims.

I. Brief Introduction to Italy’s Legal Framework on Human Trafficking

A.  International Legal Framework Applicable to Italy

Italy has ratified the following international treaties that directly or indirectly deal with human trafficking:

  • The Slavery Convention, ratified by Italy on August 25, 1928,[1] defining slavery and the slave trade.[2]
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, prohibiting slavery or servitude and the slave trade.[3]
  • The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950, ratified by Italy on October 26, 1955,[4] establishing provisions concerning slavery or servitude and compulsory labor.[5]
  • The Geneva Convention on the High Seas of 1958, ratified by Italy on December 17, 1964, addressing human trafficking by sea.[6]
  • The Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1959, adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1989, prohibiting certain crimes against children, including trafficking in any form.[7]
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1967, ratified by Italy on September 15, 1978,[8] banning slavery, the slave trade, servitude, and forced or compulsory labor.[9]
  • The Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement of June 14, 1985, on the Gradual Abolition of Checks at the Common Borders, enabling signatory members to impose penalties on anyone who, for financial gain, assists or tries to assist an alien to enter or reside within the territory of one of the members in violation of that member’s laws concerning the entry and residence of foreigners.[10]
  • The Europol Convention of 1995, which has as one of its objectives “prevent[ing] and combat[ing] . . . illegal immigrant smuggling [and] trade in human beings” as initial steps in “preventing and combating . . . serious forms of international crime” that involve “an organized criminal structure” in the Member States.[11]  “Trafficking in human beings” is defined in light of European Union law[12] as

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.  Exploitation shall include, as a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, the production, sale or distribution of child-pornography material, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.[13]

  • The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998, which was proposed by Italy and ratified by it on July 26, 1999,[14] and contains a definition of “crime against humanity” that includes “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity.”[15]
  • The Geneva Convention No. 182 of 1999 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, ratified by Italy on June 7, 2000,[16] which addresses “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children.”[17]
  • The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime,[18] and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,[19] both of which were signed by Italy on December 12, 2000.[20]
  • The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 2000, prohibiting slavery or servitude, forced labor, and trafficking in human beings.[21]

B.  Domestic Legislation

Italian law lists those persons considered to be in a vulnerable situation for purposes of legal protection vis-à-vis human trafficking.  This list includes minors; unaccompanied minors; the elderly; the disabled; women, especially when pregnant; single parents with minor children; people with mental disorders; and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape, or other serious forms of psychological, physical, sexual, or gender violence.[22]  The protective measures established in the legislation do not prejudice the responsibility of the state or individuals according to international law and international human rights and humanitarian law.[23]

The law establishes a procedure for the legal determination of the age of a person who appears to be a minor and who has been the victim of human trafficking.[24]  Unaccompanied minors who are victims of human trafficking must be properly informed of their rights, including eventual access to a procedure for the determination of international protection.[25]

The law establishes the Fund for the Implementation of Anti-human-trafficking Measures under the Presidency of the Council of Ministers,[26] which finances assistance and social integration programs for the benefit of trafficking victims.[27]  The Fund also covers the compensation of persons who have been victims of human trafficking.[28]  A claim for compensation must be submitted to the President of the Council of Ministers within five days from the date of the judicial decision that ordered payment to the victim.[29]

When government agencies providing social services detect that a foreigner has experienced violence or serious exploitation and that there is a real danger to the person’s safety, the questore (police prefect) may issue a special residence permit to the foreigner.[30]  Such special residence permits are valid for six months and may be renewed for one year, or for a longer period as necessary based on reasons of justice.[31]  The permit is revoked when the assistance program is interrupted, when the foreigner engages in conduct incompatible with the goals of the program, or when the conditions justifying the issuance of the permit no longer exist.[32]

The residence permit allows beneficiaries to access residential services, study, and work in Italy.[33]  If the foreigner is still working when the residential permit expires, the permit may be renewed for the duration of the work relationship.[34]  The aforementioned residence permits may be converted into “residence permits for reason of study” when the foreigner is registered in a regular course of studies.[35]

C.  Criminal Conduct Related to Human Trafficking

The Italian Criminal Code defines several offenses related to human trafficking.[36]  The Code punishes with eight to twenty years of incarceration those who exercise property rights over a person or who reduce a person to, or maintain a person in, a state of continuous subjection, forcing the person to provide work or sexual services, beg or fulfill illegal activities involving exploitation, or undergo the removal of organs.[37]  The Code provides that the reduction to or keeping of a person in a state of subjugation occurs when the conduct involves the use of violence; threats; deceit; abuse of authority; exploitation of a situation of vulnerability, physical or psychological inferiority, or need; or by promising to give or by giving money or other advantages to anyone under his authority.[38]

The Criminal Code also punishes with incarceration of six to twelve years and a fine those who recruit or induce a person younger than eighteen years of age to prostitution.[39]  Also punished are those who promote, exploit, manage, organize, or control the prostitution of a person younger than eighteen years, or who otherwise obtain profits from that person based on her exploitation.[40]

According to the Criminal Code, whoever purchases, transfers, or sells a person who is in a situation of vulnerability is subject to imprisonment from eight to twenty years.[41]  The penalty is increased by a third to a half if the victim is a minor under the age of eighteen or if the acts of exploitation are directed to prostitution or in order to subject the victim to the removal of organs.[42]

The penalties also apply when the crimes are committed abroad by Italian citizens, or against an Italian citizen, or by a foreigner in conjunction with an Italian citizen.[43]  In the latter case, the foreigner is punished when the alleged crime is punished with imprisonment of not less than five years and when the Ministry of Justice requests the penalty.[44]

The Italian Constitutional Court ruled in 1991 that the expression “conditions analogous to slavery” contained in article 600 of the Criminal Code refers to article 1 of the Slavery Convention of 1926, which states as follows:

For the purpose of the present Convention, the following definitions are agreed upon:

(1)  Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.

(2)  The slave trade includes all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves.[45]

According to the Italian Constitutional Court, the expression “conditions analogous to slavery” also include servitude by debt, servitude or serfdom, as well as the practices that authorize (1) the sale of an unmarried woman as a wife; (2) the sale of a married woman; and (3) the sale of a person younger than eighteen years for the exploitation of his work or his person.[46]  In 1998, the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) also recognized the application of article 600 of the Criminal Code to the exploitation of illegal immigrants.[47]

Italian legislation punishes those who facilitate or promote the immigration of persons with the purpose of recruiting them for prostitution, for their exploitation, or who facilitate or promote the entry into Italian territory of minors to be used in illicit activities for their exploitation.[48]  The same legislation provides that if police or social service providers become aware of situations of violence or serious exploitation affecting a foreigner and concrete dangers for his or her safety result from attempts to escape from the influence of a criminal organization, the questore (police prefect)  may issue a special residence permit authorizing the foreigner to avoid the violence or exploitation affecting him or her, and to participate in an assistance and social integration program.[49]

The legislation also contains measures for the protection of minors, particularly setting time limits on the duration of the investigation for serious crimes related to the sexual exploitation of minors, including prostitution, pornography, human trafficking, the slave trade, and sexual violence.[50] 

Finally, the Navigation Code punishes the commander, official, or crewmembers of a national or foreign vessel who commit the crimes of human trafficking or the slave trade.[51]

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II.  Roles and Responsibilities of Government Agencies in Enforcing Laws Against Human Trafficking.

The Italian government has adopted a series of actions aimed at analyzing and detecting the appropriate means to tackle the phenomenon of human trafficking, while still seeking to balance the activities of law enforcement and the protection of human rights.[52]  The Department for Equal Opportunities, which is located under the Ministry of the Interior, proposes, guides, and coordinates actions to fight human trafficking and to provide social integration services to the victims.[53]  The same Department must submit a biannual report to the European Union’s Coordinator for Anti-Human Trafficking.[54]

On February 24, 1998, the Italian government created an interministerial commission for the coordination of government actions against the trafficking of women and minors for purposes of sexual exploitation.[55]  Another interministerial commission has been set up to direct, control, and plan the resources for the implementation of the social integration programs established in legislation enacted in 1998.  In addition, on July 26, 2000, a telephone number against trafficking in women was activated to provide information to such women and help them escape forced prostitution.[56]  The telephone service connects the victims with volunteers; local health institutions; and police, religious, and consular services.[57]  In addition, the Ministry of the Interior has assigned specialized police officers to dozens of Italian consular offices in source countries for the main migratory flows into Italy.[58]  

The law charges the government with establishing a national plan for the assistance and social integration of victims of human trafficking and serious exploitation, whether Italian or foreign.[59]  Government agencies assisting victims of human trafficking and with competence in matters of asylum must coordinate their activities.[60]

Furthermore, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior conduct permanent monitoring over the Italian consular offices located abroad that grant visas to foreigners coming from countries suspected of supplying the largest number of trafficked persons in Italy.[61]  The government has recognized the inherent difficulty of tracking visa permits granted for educational, tourism, family, or other grounds to persons who end up engaging in sexual trafficking activities in Italy.[62]  Special computer monitoring activities are also conducted over Italian citizens who invite at least two foreigners within a one-year period.[63]

The Italian government has signed bilateral treaties with several cooperation countries (including Tunisia, Nigeria, and Albania), which seek to improve the conditions of vulnerable local populations who have been the frequent target of human trafficking activities.[64]

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III.  Training Initiatives

As a European Union member, Italy participates in the programs and activities carried out by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex).[65]  Concerning training, Frontex’s role is to complement “training solutions existing at the national level to create a training system whereby the border-control personnel of all the Member States can work together effectively.”[66]  In addition, Frontex provides several training resources that are available to Member States in the area of border control and education.[67]  In particular, Frontex issued the Common Core Curriculum (CCC) in 2007, which “represents the first standardised set of skills and knowledge criteria for basic-level border-guard training in the EU,”[68] and “includes modules representing the full range of border-related topics from detection of false documents and stolen cars to human rights, international law and leadership.”[69]  Finally, Frontex offers specialized training in several areas that are key to border control, including, among other things, language instruction, anti-trafficking in human beings, detection of falsified documents, detection of stolen vehicles, flight safety training, and human rights training.[70]

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Prepared by Dante Figueroa
Senior Legal Information Analyst
February 2016


[1] Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties – Italy, University of Minnesota, Human Rights Library, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/ratification-italy.html (last visited Feb. 17, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/V95F-BWEY.

[2] Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery (Slavery Convention) arts. 1(1) & (2), Sept. 25, 1926, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/slavery.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/373Q-REMY.

[3] Universal Declaration of Human Rights art. 4, Dec. 10, 1948, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/‌UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/D8JD-NYWX.

[4] University of Minnesota, supra note 1.

[5] European Convention on Human Rights art. 4, Nov. 4, 1950, available at http://www.hri.org/docs/ECHR50.html#Convention, archived at https://perma.cc/ZG2T-2C5Q.

[6] Convention on the Law of the Sea, Apr. 29, 1958, 450 U.N.T.S. 11, https://treaties.un.org/pages/ShowMTDSGDetails.aspx?src=UNTSONLINE&tabid=2&mtdsg_no=XXI-2&chapter=21&lang=en#Participants, archived at https://perma.cc/2PBX-VF89; Tullio Treves, 1958 Geneva Conventions on the Law of the Sea 1–2 (United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law 2008), http://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ha/gclos/gclos_e.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/Q6V4-CWDA.

[7] Declaration of the Rights of the Child princ. 9, Nov. 20, 1959, http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/1959-Declaration-of-the-Rights-of-the-Child.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/6FZA-N5JV.

[8] University of Minnesota, supra note 1.

[9] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights art. 8, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, available at http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/b3ccpr.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/3VZS-947C.

[10] Schengen Acquis – Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 Between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the Gradual Abolition of Checks at Their Common Borders art. 27(1), 2000 Official Journal of the European Union (O.J.) (L 239) 19, http://www.imolin.org/doc/amlid/‌Belgium_Convention_19_June_1990_Schengen_English.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/UW7U-RUT6.

[11] Council Act of 26 July 1995 Drawing Up the Convention Based on Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, on the Establishment of a European Police Office (Europol Convention) arts. 2(1) & (2), 1995 O.J. (C 316) 1, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A31995F1127%2801%29, archived at https://perma.cc/9CGJ-YZS5.  The Europol Convention was amended by Council Decision of 6 April 2009 Establishing the European Police Office (Europol), 2009 O.J. (L 121) 37 (Council Decision of 2009), available at https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/council_decision.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/N34B-CQVX.  For commentary on the Convention, see Tony Bunyan, The Europol Convention (Statewatch 1995), http://www.statewatch.org/docbin/europol-pamphlet-1995.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/83GP-C7PH.

[12] Council Joint Action 98/699/JHA of 3 December 1998 on Money Laundering, the Identification, Tracing, Freezing, Seizing and Confiscation of the Instrumentalities and the Proceeds from Crime, 1998 O.J. (L 333) 1, available at http://db.eurocrim.org/db/en/doc/1200.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/9MAW-T6HY.

[13] Council Decision of 2009, Annex(c), at 66.

[14] University of Minnesota, supra note 1.

[15] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court art. 7(1)(g) (Rome Statute), U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9* (July 17, 1998), available at http://legal.un.org/icc/statute/romefra.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/LE4V-GSSK.

[16] University of Minnesota, supra note 1.

[17] Convention No. 182 of the International Labour Organization Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour art. 3(a), http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/‌ilc/ilc87/com-chic.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/DSK3-L7ZW, ratified in Italy by Law No. 148 of May 25, 2000, Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana [G.U.] June 12, 2000, No. 135, http://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:legge:2000-05-25;148, archived at https://perma.cc/9SZR-2MX7.

[18] University of Minnesota, supra note 1.

[19] Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, Nov. 15, 2000, 2237 U.N.T.S. 343, https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY &mtdsg_no=XVIII-12-a&chapter=18&lang=en (click “vol. 2237” under “Text”), archived at https://perma.cc/ W3M3-THJ9.

[20] University of Minnesota, supra note 1.

[21] Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union art. 5, Dec. 7, 2000, 2000 O.J. (C 364) 1, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/F9KX-SYBY.

[22] Decreto Legislativo 4 marzo 2014, n. 24, Attuazione della direttiva 2011/36/UE, relativa alla prevenzione e alla repressione della tratta di esseri umani e alla protezione delle vittime, che sostituisce la decisione quadro 2002/629/GAI [Legislative Decree [L.D.] No. 24 of March 4, 2014, Implementing Directive 2011/36/UE, Related to the Prevention and Repression of Human Trafficking and the Protection of Victims, Which Replaces Framework Decision 2002/629/GAI] art. 1(1), G.U. Mar. 13, 2014, http://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/atto/serie_generale/caricaDettaglioAtto/originario?atto.dataPubblicazioneGazzetta=2014-03-13&atto.codiceRedazionale=14G00035&elenco30giorni=false, archived at https://perma.cc/G6EW-65S6.

[23] L.D. No. 24 of 2014, art. 1(2).

[24] Id. art. 4(2).

[25] Id. art. 4(1).

[26] Legge 11 agosto 2003, n.228, Misure contro la tratta di persone [Law No. 228 of August 11, 2003, Measures Against Human Trafficking] art. 12(1), G.U. Aug. 23, 2003, No. 195 http://www.camera.it/parlam/leggi/03228l.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/3TT2-K6JT.

[27] Law No. 228 of 2003, art. 12(2).

[28] L.D. No. 24 of 2014, art. 6(1).

[29] Id.

[30] Decreto Legislativo 25 luglio 1998, n. 286, Testo unico delle disposizioni concernenti la disciplina dell’immigrazione e norme sulla condizione dello straniero [Legislative Decree No. 286 of July 25, 1998, Consolidated Text of Provisions Related to the Topic of Immigration and on the Condition of Foreigners] art. 18(1), G.U. Aug. 18, 1998, No. 191, http://www.camera.it/parlam/leggi/deleghe/98286dl.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/8FKD-YN6Q.

[31] Id. art. 18(4).

[32] Id.

[33] Id. art. 18(5).

[34] Id.

[35] Id.

[37] C.C. art. 600.

[38] Id.

[39] C.C. art. 600-bis ¶ 1.

[40] C.C. art. 600 ¶ 2.

[41] C.C. art. 602 ¶ 1.

[42] C.C. art. 602 ¶ 2.

[43] C.C. art. 604.

[44] Id.

[45] Ch. V, Outline of Italian Legislation Concerning Human Trafficking, in Parliamentary Committee Schengen-Europol, Final Report of Fact-Finding Study, http://www.camera.it/_bicamerali/schengen/indagini/‌docconclusivo.htm (in Italian; last visited Feb. 17, 2016) (referring to Constitutional Court Decision No. 96 of 1991, which interpreted article 600 of the Italian Criminal Code in light of the Slavery Convention of 1926, supra note 2), archived at https://perma.cc/VB6W-5539.

[46] Parliamentary Committee Schengen-Europol, supra note 45.

[47] Decision of the Italian Supreme Court of December 16, 1998, cited in Parliamentary Committee Schengen-Europol, supra note 45.

[48] Decreto Legislativo 25 luglio 1998, n. 286, Testo unico delle disposizioni concernenti la disciplina dell’immigrazione e norme sulla condizione dello straniero [Legislative Decree No. 286 of July 25, 1998, Consolidated Text on Immigration and the Condition of Foreigners] art. 12, G.U. Aug. 18, 1998, No. 191, http://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:decreto.legislativo:1998;286~art38, archived at https://perma.cc/6JQW-97XN.

[49] Id. art. 18(1).

[50] Decreto-Legge 24 novembre 2000, n. 341, Disposizioni urgenti per l’efficacia e l’efficienza dell’Amministrazione della giustizia [Decree Law No. 341 of November 24, 2000, Urgent Provisions for the Efectiveness and Efficiency of the Administration of Justice], G.U. Nov. 24, 2000, No. 275, http://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:decreto-legge:2000;341, archived at https://perma.cc/FD8W-37BH.

[51] Regio Decreto 30 marzo 1942, n. 327, Approvazione del testo definitivo del Codice della navigazione [Royal Decree No. 327 of March 30, 1942, Approving the Final Text of the Navigation Code] arts. 1152 & 1153, G.U. Apr. 18, 1942, No. 93, http://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:regio.decreto:1942-03-30;327!vig=2014-02-27, archived at https://perma.cc/3C3U-SY59.

[52] Ch. VII, Government Initiatives, in Parliamentary Committee Schengen-Europol, supra note 45.

[53] L.D. No. 24 of 2014, art. 7(1)(a).

[54] Id. art. 7(1)(c).

[55] Parliamentary Committee Schengen-Europol, supra note 45.

[56] Id.

[57] Id.

[58] Id.

[59] L.D. No. 24 of 2014, arts. 8(1) & 9(1).

[60] Id. art. 10(1).

[61] Parliamentary Committee Schengen-Europol, supra note 45.

[62] Id.

[63] Id.

[64] Ch. IX, Conclusions, in Parliamentary Committee Schengen-Europol, supra note 45.

[65] Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 Establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, Oct. 26, 2004, 2007 O.J. (L 349) 1, http://frontex.europa.eu/assets/About_Frontex/frontex_regulation_en.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/PD2G-JXV8.

[66] Principles, Frontex, http://frontex.europa.eu/training/principles (last visited Feb. 8, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/H27W-RJM3.

[67] Curricula, Frontex, http://frontex.europa.eu/training/curricula (last visited Feb. 8, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/UQQ5-SNGA.

[68] Id.

[69] Id.

[70] Specialised Training, Frontex, http://frontex.europa.eu/training/specialised-training (last visited Feb. 8, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/565G-LKR4.

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Last Updated: 03/18/2016