A report by the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering of the European Parliament (CRIM), adopted this week, reveals that there are currently about one million human trafficking victims used as slave labourers across Europe generating an estimated €25 billion per year criminal enterprise. The European Parliament stressed the importance of the adoption of a European action plan for 2014-2019, which would “provide a roadmap and adequate resources” to eradicate human trafficking and forced labour in particular of children and women “through tougher sanctions” and to ensure trafficked victims are protected and supported.

Last week, in its third annual report, the Council of Europe’s Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) called upon States to “up their game” with regards to the criminalisation of all forms of human trafficking, the prosecution of human traffickers and the protection of trafficked victims.

Having conducted on-site visits in 10 European countries in 2012 and 2013, GRETA’s President summarised that “[t]rafficking for the purpose of slavery, forced labour, removal of organs or forcing victims to commit criminal offences takes place every day in Europe, but is seldom investigated and punished”. GRETA urges more States to ratify the Council of Europe Anti-Trafficking Convention, to combat all forms of human trafficking and to adopt effective anti-trafficking measures; in particular by prosecuting traffickers, involving the private sector and the media and providing effective access to compensation for victims while protecting them from intimidation and reprisals. GRETA’s President adds that “States must pursue policies in favour of groups vulnerable to human trafficking, including Roma and asylum seekers, who should benefit from integration measures to avoid them being targeted by criminal networks”.

Regarding the protection of victims of human trafficking, civil society has welcomed the decision on 21 October 2013 by the Spanish authorities to grant, for the first time, asylum to a human trafficking victim. The fear for her and her daughter’s lives inflicted by her traffickers who sexually exploited her since her arrival in Spain three years ago were thus recognised by the authorities as a ground for international protection. ACCEM and CEAR hope that her case has the potential to set a precedent for future asylum applications lodged by human trafficking victims in Spain, thereby changing current practice of refusing asylum applications made by trafficked victims instead of prioritising the effective fight against criminal human trafficking networks.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 25 October 2013
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