Today, the European Commission is presenting its Second Report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings.
Taking stock of measures taken since 2015, the report highlights the main trends in trafficking in human beings and outlines remaining challenges that the EU and Member States must address as a matter of priority.
“Thousands of human beings are still trafficked every year in the European Union. This happens right under our watch – to women, children, to EU and non-EU citizens. Despite progress in some areas, there is an imperative need to end the culture of impunity for perpetrators and abusers. It is time for law enforcement and justice authorities across Member States to further step up cooperation and duly enforce existing legislation to catch those involved in this heinous crime, and offer effective and rightful protection to the victims,” said Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos.
“The findings of this second report are encouraging but at the same time concerning. A lot has been achieved but our ultimate goal must remain eradicating the crime, we owe this to the victims. We have a rich toolbox at EU level ready to be fully implemented and ensure that no victims remain invisible,” added the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Myria Vassiliadou.
The report shows that 20,532 men, women and children were registered as victims of trafficking in the EU in 2015-2016. However, the actual number is likely to be significantly higher as many victims remain undetected. Women and girls continue to be most vulnerable to trafficking (68%) while children represent 23% of registered victims. Trafficking for sexual exploitation remains the most widespread form (56%), followed by trafficking for labour exploitation (26%). The level of prosecutions and convictions is low, with 5,979 prosecutions and 2,927 convictions reported and only 18 reported convictions for knowingly using services provided by victims. The report also highlights an increase in trafficking within Member States and targeting of younger victims and persons with disabilities. The use of Internet and social media to recruit victims is also noted as well as the heightened risk of trafficking in the context of migration.
While there have been certain improvements, particularly in relation to cross-border cooperation (demonstrated by the joint efforts of Europol and Eurojust), the phenomenon continues to evolve. As a result, the Commission outlines a number of priority areas for Member States to focus on to effectively combat trafficking in human beings:
Improved data collection: Member States should improve the recording and registration of data particularly on gender, age, forms of exploitation, citizenship of victims and perpetrators, as well as on assistance and protection;
Countering the culture of impunity: EU rules already allow for the criminalisation of those who knowingly use services provided by victims of trafficking and the Commission encourages the Member States to implement those provisions in their national laws;
Promoting a coordinated response: Member States should continue enhancing transnational law enforcement and judicial cooperation while at the same time promoting cooperation with non-EU countries;
Ensuring victims’ access to justice: Member States are encouraged to give effect to national legislation by ensuring tools are in place for early identification of victims, providing access to compensation, and promoting appropriate training and capacity building of relevant professionals.
Since the release of a first progress report, the Commission has taken numerous steps to address trafficking in human beings and will continue to assist Member States in their efforts, through both financial support and operational measures.