The Commission has today adopted 40 new measures in an EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016). These concrete and practical measures are to be implemented over the next five years and include the establishment of national law enforcement units specialised in human trafficking and the creation of joint European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases.
"Unfortunately slavery hasn't yet been left to the history books. It is appalling to see that in our times human beings are still being put up for sale and being trafficked into forced labour or prostitution. Ensuring that victims can get support and bringing traffickers to justice is at the heart of our actions. We are far from there yet, but we can have only one aim: to eradicate trafficking in human beings", said Cecilia Malmström, Home Affairs Commissioner.
Hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked in the EU every year. Women and men, boys and girls in vulnerable positions are traded for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation, removal of organs, begging, domestic servitude, forced marriage, illegal adoption as well as other forms of exploitation.
A new European strategy
The strategy includes prevention, protection and support of the victims, as well as prosecution of the traffickers. It identifies five priorities and outlines a series of initiatives for each of them, such as:
Recent estimates from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) put the number of victims of forced labour, including forced sexual exploitation, at 20.9 million worldwide. 5.5 million of them are children. According to Europol, children forced into criminal activities, such as organised begging and shoplifting, are being traded as commodities with €20 000 price tags.
The estimated number of victims in the developed economies (US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway and EU countries) amounts to around 1.5 million forced labourers, 7% of the total worldwide. Trafficking in human beings generates more than €25 billion profits a year for international criminal organisations worldwide. While many victims come from non-EU countries, internal trafficking (i.e. EU citizens trafficked within the EU) appears to be the rise.
Preliminary data collected by Member States at EU level appear consistent with those provided by international organisations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), showing that three quarters of victims identified in EU Member States are trafficked for sexual exploitation (76% in 2010). Other victims are forced into labour exploitation (14%), begging (3%) and domestic servitude (1%).
From a gender-specific point of view, preliminary data available show that women and girls are the main victims of trafficking in human beings; female victims accounted for 79% (of whom 12% were girls) and men for 21% (of whom 3% were boys) of victims between 2008 and 2010.
Yet too few perpetrators end up behind bars while victims struggle to recover and re-integrate themselves into society: preliminary results of recent data collected shows that the number of convictions in trafficking cases has decreased from around 1 500 in 2008 to around 1 250 in 2010. Europeans agree that something needs to be done: in the latest survey 93% of citizens agreed that EU Member States should cooperate to tackle trafficking in human beings.
With the "EU Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016)", the Commission is focusing on concrete actions that will support and complement the implementation of EU legislation on trafficking (Directive 2011/36/EU ) - whose deadline for transposition is April 2013.
The measures included in the strategy are the result of extensive consultations with experts, governments, civil society and international organisations, social partners and academics. They reflect their main concerns, as well as the views of victims, and will complement existing efforts.
The Strategy will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council.
The Commission will continue to assess progress made in addressing trafficking and will report every two years to the European Parliament and the Council. The first report, to be issued in 2014, will include a midterm evaluation of the Strategy.