HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND SEXUAL EXPLOITATION IN THE EU

Trafficking human beings is one of the most dangerous organized crimes and a grave violation of Human Rights, prohibited by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

 

In the EU, during 2017-2018, there were 14 145 victims of human trafficking registered. Most of them were for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the crime that generates about EUR 14 billion in only one single year.

 

France reported the highest number of prosecutions for trafficking in human beings in the EU, followed by Belgium, Romania, Austria and Bulgaria. France also registered the highest number of convictions for the offences of trafficking in human beings in the EU, followed by Romania, Germany, Spain and Belgium. 70% of the convicted traffickers are EU citizens.

 

What is human trafficking, and what is its purpose?

Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, intending to exploit them for profit. Men, women and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime.

 

 

The main proposes are sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, forced criminality, organ removal, child pornography.

 

However, sexual exploitation is the most prevalent form of trafficking in the EU. Almost all the victims of this crime are women and girls.

 

Traffickers use many methods to control their victims, such as physical and sexual abuse, blackmail and emotional manipulation.

 

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, is the world’s primary legal instrument to combat human trafficking. What legislation and policies we have in the EU?

 

EU Legal and Policy Framework

Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA is the fundamental EU legislative act trafficking in human beings. This Directive provides binding legislation to prevent trafficking, prosecute criminals effectively and protect the victims. It also establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the area of trafficking in human beings. 

 

For its part, the Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA sets the minimum rules and standard provisions to strengthen victim’s security, assistance and support. This Directive lays down minimum rules. Member States may extend the rights set out in this Directive to provide a higher level of protection.

EU legal acts to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation

2011-12-17 — 32011L0093 — Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA.

 

2006-09-22 — 32006D0619 — 2006/619/EC: Council Decision of 24 July 2006 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women And Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime concerning the provisions of the Protocol, in so far as the requirements of the Protocol fall within the scope of Part III, Title IV of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

 

2006-09-22 — 32006D0618 — 2006/618/EC: Council Decision of 24 July 2006 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women And Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime concerning the provisions of the Protocol, in so far as the provisions of this Protocol fall within the scope of Articles 179 and 181a of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

 

2004-05-01 — 32004L0081 — Council Directive 2004/81/EC of 29 April 2004 on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration, who cooperate with the competent authorities.

 

2003-10-29 — 32003G1029(02) — Council Resolution of 20 October 2003 on initiatives to combat trafficking in human beings, in particular, women.

 

2002-05-15 — 32002H0515(02) — Council Recommendation of 25 April 2002 on the need to enhance cooperation and exchanges of information between the various operational units specializing in combating trafficking in precursors in the Member States of the European Union.

 

2001-02-01 — 32001D0087 — 2001/87/EC: Council Decision of 8 December 2000 on the signing, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime and its Protocols on combating trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and the smuggling of migrants by land, air and sea.

 

Human trafficking is extensively addressed in developing and cooperation instruments relating to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Trafficking is included under three specific targets, including eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual exploitation (Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.2), eradication of trafficking and forced labour (SDG 8.7) and eradication of trafficking of children (SDG 16.2).

 

On 20 October 2020, The European Commission published its third Report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings. Although significant progress has been made, there are still many challenges and aspects to cover, and the Covid-19 consequences made the situation more grave due to the emergence of new risks. Therefore, new legislation to protect the new reality and challenges is essential.

 

Is the legal coverage we have enough?

The Covid-19 was an opportunity for the criminals to intensify their activities via the internet, which created a new challenge to face.

 

As a consequence of the latest Pandemic situation, the economic recession increased the rate of unemployment, which can also be used as an opportunity to reach more victims, taking advantage of their financial problems. This was stated by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) when they warn that trafficking in human beings is likely to increase in the wake of the economic downturn as unemployment has been triggered.

 

The extensive use of the internet and social media in conjunction with the increased misuse of information technology by criminals presents a concern and a challenge to authorities tackling trafficking in human beings. Trafficking networks are increasingly showing higher levels of professionalism and expertise. Organized crime groups involved in trafficking in human beings have well-structured criminal networks, are operating internationally, in some cases with a pool of trans-border facilitators and specialized groups.

 

Many immigrants, unaccompanied minors and refugees in the EU Member States suppose a significant challenge is identifying victims and criminals since they are collective with a high risk of becoming victims due to their vulnerability situation.

 

Criminals usually use fraudulent employment agencies and fake promises of education or job opportunities to trick their victims, so an intensified and cooperative inspections are needed.

 

Appropriate and intensified education, information and awareness-raising campaigns are required to reduce the risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.

 

To address all those challenges, it is indispensable to develop and improve an efficient and consolidated EU-level cross-border cooperation, collaboration and exchangeable information between EU Member States, countries of origin and transit, EU agencies and international organizations.

 

[1]https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/organized-crime-and-human-trafficking/trafficking-in-human-beings_en.

 

[2] European Commission, third Report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings, 20 October 2020.

 

[3] https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/human-trafficking.html.

 

[4] Europol, Beyond the pandemic – How Covid-19 will shape the serious and organized crime landscape in the EU, 30 April 2020.

 

[5] European Commission, third Report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings, 20 October 2020.

 

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