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Greetings from the hometown of Santa Claus, town of Rovaniemi! We are proud to be involved in the COMBAT Human Trafficking project that aims at developing a toolkit against human trafficking for European tourism industry. This is a topical issue in tourism and hospitality industry that is close to our concerns since we represent the Multidimensional Tourism Institute and stakeholders of the industry in the northernmost EU region.
Christmas is a high season for tourism in the European North. Right now citizens in our region prepare for both Christmas and tourists to arrive. Being traditionally a family-centered holiday Christmas represents happiness, generosity and good will. This is the best occasion for all of us to point out that we are in the need of these positive values on our continent.
The EU is setting strong goals towards the safety, security and well-being of its citizens. Unfortunately, these aims haven’t been completely achieved, yet. Trafficking in human beings, a subject that the COMBAT project addresses, is a widely spread and very alarming phenomenon. Annually EU member states report about 10 000 registered identified and presumed victims. Those victimized are always the most vulnerable people of our societies; women, children and immigrants. Women and girls are in danger of becoming subjected to sex trafficking. Men and women can become subjected to conditions of forced labor. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the families is also too common a phenomenon in the EU.
Unfortunately, the above mentioned facts indicate that Europe is not safe and secure for all. The project we work with, and all other projects and activities in this field, have therefore a heavy responsibility on their shoulders.
Europe is currently looking for new, more topical narratives to develop itself in the 21st century when free movement, common money and shared symbols are not enough.
We would like to propose that developing practical hands-on activities in order to make Europe really a safe and inclusive society could also contribute to this more generic aim. Since we represent tourism development sector, it is apt to say that Europe as a safe tourism destination could also be part of the story that we want to tell and promote.
We all can make Europe a better place to live and work. In here are some hints for a regular citizen to develop a safer and more human Europe: It really makes a difference if we as customers ask for the origins of the products. By doing this, we respect ethical rules of employment and environmental issues. It really makes a difference if we as employers provide the employee healthy and safe working conditions.
Furthermore, we make a better Europe by actively paying attention to all kinds of abuses of human rights. The main challenge facing anti-trafficking efforts is identifying the victims of human trafficking. To this end we need research, education and training for the public authorities but also for the industry that faces human trafficking in its daily operations. In order to tackle the phenomenon, there is an apparent need, for example, to agree on the common definition of human trafficking. Its national applications are difficult to apply and interpret in practical situations. There is a lot to do and COMBAT Human Trafficking project takes its share of the responsibility.
It is an interesting observation on the European member states that those countries that provide a relatively corruption-free platform for the economies, perform better also in competitiveness indicators and well-being of their citizens. This very basic setting also contributes to the prevention of human trafficking.
We are looking forward building a better tomorrow for all in Europe. Having said this we wish you a Merry Christmas from the hometown of Santa Claus!
Dr. Pekka Iivari, Senior Researcher, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Multidimensional Tourism Institute
M.A. Niko Niemisalo, Project Manager, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Multidimensional Tourism Institute
This blog reflects only the author’s view and not that of the European Commission. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of information contained in this blog.