Strengths and weaknesses of the Swedish and Italian anti-trafficking systems


  • Michela Semprebon Department of Law, Political and International Studies, University of Parma
  • Isabelle Johansson Department of Social Sciences, Kristianstad University


anti-trafficking, Sweden, Italy, victim referral, sexual exploitation


In this paper, we compare the Swedish and Italian anti-trafficking systems, with specific attention to measures addressing women who were trafficked for sexual exploitation. It is based on empirical qualitative data collected through the interdisciplinary EU project INSigHT – Building Capacity to Deal with Human Trafficking and Transit Routes in Nigeria, Italy, Sweden. We describe the respective systems, including their strengths and weaknesses. While both systems are largely based on a humanitarian governance model of support targeting “deserving victims of human trafficking”, they promote different visions of migrants’ inclusion.  The Swedish system is characterized by short-term support measures, most of which are tied to migrants’ participation in criminal proceedings. The ultimate step in Sweden’s mechanism for the referral of trafficking victims is to return them to their country of origin. Conversely, in the Italian system we find long-term support measures, including residence permits and integration projects, which migrants can access without collaborating with law enforcement. Whereas the ultimate goal of the Swedish system is to prosecute crimes and have migrants leave the country, the Italian system acknowledges migrants’ wish and need to stay in Italy. These differences, we argue, are connected to the genesis of anti-trafficking policy in each country: while the Swedish system evolved from a top-down approach, in Italy it was grassroot efforts that paved the way to protection measures. Despite these differences, both systems fail to promote the full inclusion of women. They fail to recognize their agency and involve them in the definition and delivery of support measures. There is also an evident tension between institutional times (ex. resident permit validity and project duration) and biographical times (ex. women’s ability to tell their stories and collaborate in investigations).