On this European Day for Victims of Crime Victim Support Europe pays particular attention to cross-border victims of crime – or victims of crime that are victimised in a country other than the country they reside in.
An estimated 2 million people fall victim in a European Member State other than their own each year. Like other victims of crime cross-border victims can face devastating consequences of the crime – physical, psychological, financial, practical, social.
A Victim Support Europe study on cross-border victimisation showed that the cross-border element of victimisation adds a layer of complexity. Being a victim in a country that is not their own, victims can face additional barriers to exercise their rights.
Our study identified characteristics of cross-border victims that can turn into barriers and prevent cross-border victims to access to their #victimsrights to information, protection, access to justice.
- Difference in language between the victim and the competent authorities and service providers
- Practical difficulties faced by cross-border victims due to the crime
- Different cultural background than competent authorities or services providers
- Distance between the victims and their support network in their country of residence; distance between victim and competent authorities
- Limited time that victims stay in the country where the crime occurred
While both national and EU legislation has substantially improved and extended the rights available to cross-border victims, our study clearly shows the discrepancy between rights on paper and in practice for these victims.
- Information provision
Our findings show that cross-border victims of crime are mostly unaware of their rights as a victim of crime in a country other than their country of residence. Even more so than other victims, as they have no knowledge of the criminal justice system, or the rights they have in the country where the crime took place.
- Information for victims should be provided in as many languages as possible.
- Information on rights should be provided to the victim in a culturally sensitive way.
- In order to deal with the barrier of distance, information on rights and procedures to follow to enjoy these rights should be provided in a way that victims can access them from a distance e.g. internet applications or websites.
- Furthermore, information provision for victims of cross-border crimes should be offered in locations that Cross-border victims of crime can easily access it (e.g. airports).
- infovictims.be where victims can find information about their rights, services and support
- Swedish Welcome to Court Introduction where victims of crime can find information on criminal proceedings
III. Access to Justice
The primary barrier to access to justice is language. Although victims of cross-border crimes have a right to translation and interpretation, our study reveals the various shortcomings in the provision of translation and interpretation by competent authorities. Translation is often limited to certain procedures such as making a complaint, rarely offered in all languages and often provided with a lengthy delay. This limits victims from accessing information on the investigation, court case or decisions made.
- Authorities should invest in translation procedures that are executed in a limited timeframe that minimise the additional emotional strain, and don’t impede cross-border victims from exercising their rights to participate in criminal proceedings.
- Translations should be offered to victims free of charge
- Victim support organisations take up an important informal role to overcome the barrier of language by providing informal translation to victims during court hearings, or of files related to the criminal proceedings.
Another barrier to access to justice identified in our study is the geographical distance between the victim and the criminal proceedings. Procedures for reimbursements of expenses to attend trial are often poorly communicated to cross-border victims, or not enough to cover the costs of the victims.
- France offers reimbursements of expenses for attending the trial.
- Member states offer digital means like video conferencing are in place to bridge the distance between the victim and the criminal proceedings.
IV. Victim Support
Our study shows that cross-border victims need victim support. Their lack of information on the criminal justice system and often their lack of support system in the country where the crime took place are additional reasons why victim support has an important role to play in bridging the barriers faced by cross-border victims. However, cross-border victims often do not reach victim support services. The police and internet are identified as main sources through which cross-border victims reach victim support services.
- Platforms of networks like Victim Support Europe or WAVE offer information on where to reach victim support services in the EU.
- Consulates and embassies work together with victim support organisations and provide information and referral to cross-border victims. a
V. Referral and Collaboration between victim support organisations
A large proportion of participants referred to Victim Support Europe as the major facilitator of current cross-border collaboration on cases of cross-border victims.
Find the full report VSE Cross-border Victimisation Report