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1 October 2013
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Trainee Portrait: Lucile Smith
British student Lucile Smith is currently studying BA History and Political Science at McGill University in Montreal. She is interested in women's rights and worked in the past for Amnesty International. She is an ambitious, curious and intelligent girl who stands out by her enthusiasm and initiative. "My internship at Payoke was a paradoxical experience."
“Payoke is situated in the Antwerp Schipperskwartier, heart of the Red Light district, which initially I found very intimidating. As an advocate of women’s rights it was shocking to see young girls displayed like merchandise in a case. However, this neighbourhood also had a positive impact on my internship. In previous work with Amnesty International I always kept a certain distance from my subjects, whereas at Payoke I became involved with the victims themselves and witnessed first-hand the appalling ways in which they had been exploited. With intern Navjot Sanghera, I worked on the preparation of a manual to assist doctors in the identification of THB (trafficking in human beings) victims. The manual will be distributed in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and universities so that they can teach their staff and students to identify the victims. It was very satisfying to help in the preparation of such a useful practical tool.
I was also surprised and impressed by the broad legal definition of human trafficking in Belgium. A THB victim does not have to come from abroad. It is also a national phenomenon, for example, the exploitation of ‘lover boys’. There is also a smooth co-operation between police and NGOs, which is rare in other countries. Belgium operates on a victim-based approach where the victim is central. That is so important.
What I found more difficult to accept is the legal distinction made between trafficking and smuggling. Many of the people smuggled into Belgium, although leaving their host country voluntarily, have also been ruthlessly exploited, often being exposed to great dangers and terrible conditions. So they too are victims and should be treated as such.
My internship at Payoke was a paradoxical experience. I became acutely aware of the painful nature of people exploitation and the extent to which it exists. But being able to help, albeit in a small way, was motivating and extremely satisfying. Our co-operation with Patsy Sörensen, the director of Payoke, was fantastic. She is a very inspirational woman. Thanks to her, I believe that an individual can have a huge impact on society. Nothing is impossible if you do not give up.”