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I am very pleased to present together with the EU Anti-trafficking coordinator Myria Vassiliadou, the very first Report on the progress made to address a grave violation of fundamental rights: Trafficking of human beings.
As Europeans, we cannot accept that in today’s Europe there are women, men, girls, and boys who are sold, who are bought, and who are exploited and treated as commodities.
In fact, we will not accept this.
Trafficking is a heinous crime, a very serious and highly profitable criminal act. It also has spillovers in the areas of migrant smuggling, child sexual exploitation, drug trafficking, organised crime, and even terrorism.
Let me stress however that we do not start from scratch here.
For several years already, we have demonstrated strong political commitment and developed a comprehensive and dynamic anti-trafficking legal and policy framework through:
Today, the European Commission delivers and presents a landmark report. We take stock of progress made, acknowledge efforts and identify needs and areas for further action and improvements.
It is an exercise of accountability and collective effort, primarily aimed to support the victims of trafficking.
This report is about real people’s lives. It is about at least 15,846 people who have been registered as victims of trafficking in the EU in the years 2013 and 2014.
I say at least, because regrettably, and I want to be realistic, there are serious grounds to believe that the real number of victims goes far beyond these official figures.
65% of the registered victims were EU citizens; mainly of Bulgarian, Hungarian, Dutch, Polish and Romanian citizenship.
The progress report finds that more people become vulnerable and more unscrupulous trafficking networks make huge profits, and this must stop immediately.
Cross-border crimes have become even more interlinked. Clearly these are challenges that no country can address on its own. We need a collective effort, we need to work together to ensure we stop these criminals on time.
This is something we highlighted already one year ago, in the European Agenda on Security. We will continue supporting the Member States to fully implement the ambitious EU anti-trafficking legal framework.
Our response must be comprehensive: not only by addressing people’s vulnerabilities and ensuring that victims are treated as rights holders, but also by ensuring that we crack down on the traffickers.
And for this we must target their profits and reduce the demand that fuels trafficking for all forms of exploitation.
We must ensure that it is not victims that are criminalised, but those who exploit them, those who abuse them.
Most of all, we must continue to follow the money and the perpetrators who benefit from this highly profitable yet low risk crime. We must prosecute those responsible and ensure appropriate convictions.
Trafficking in human beings is not a modern trend and we must not allow our societies to go backwards. It existed before the current migration context.
It is our collective responsibility.
We must address all forms of exploitation, and protect the most vulnerable, while keeping a gender-specific and child-centred approach, in line with our law and in line with our policy.
We must focus on the early identification of all victims by putting in place the right mechanisms to do so.
And, last but not least, we must prevent trafficking in human beings from happening in the first place.
It is a demand that fosters all forms of exploitation – and that is what we need to address first.
Let me assure you that I am personally committed to the fight against human trafficking. And we will continue developing our ambitious policy framework towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings.
I give the floor now to our Coordinator Myria Vassiliadou to present in more details the content of the report.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Thank you very much Commissioner for giving us this very strong political message.
For the first time since the adoption of the milestone anti-trafficking directive in 2011, we are in the position to present quite a comprehensive overview of the main current trends, actions, and statistical data on trafficking in human beings in the EU.
This report gives us a better knowledge of the phenomenon, which is the most important foundation on which to build a better policy. It gives us the opportunity to come up with clear recommendations on the ways forward to addressing this crime; this severe fundamental rights violation.
In this regard, I would like to express my gratitude to all actors that contributed to the development of this Report by providing precious information and data: first of all the Member States who conveyed to me, as per the legislation, their national reports.
But also the numerous civil society organisations for their invaluable contributions which have made the report even more comprehensive.
The Commission took stock also of information from EU Agencies, international organisations and other bodies working in the field of trafficking in human beings for their invaluable
So what does this report indicate?
15,846 victims of THB were registered for the period 2013-2014. Out of those, 65% were EU citizens. At least 15% are children. And 76% are women.
These statistics are consistent with previous Eurostat figures and data from other organisations. We do fear that the actual number of victims of trafficking in the EU could be substantially higher.
Some people say it’s the tip of the iceberg.
Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is still by far reported as the most prevalent form of trafficking in the EU (67% of registered victims), with 95% of the victims being women and girls.
Trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation represents 21 % of the registered victims.
The remaining 12% are victims of other different forms of exploitation. According to information by the Member States these include trafficking for the purpose of forced begging, criminal activity, forced marriage, sham marriage, organ removal, trafficking of infants and young children for adoption, trafficking of pregnant women to sell their new-born babies, trafficking for the production of cannabis and trafficking for drug smuggling or the selling of drugs.
Child trafficking is reported by Member States as one of the trends that is increasing most sharply in the EU, with almost 2,500 child victims in 2013-2014.
The Commissioner has already listed the EU countries of citizenship for registered victims, but what about from outside the EU?
The top five non-EU countries of citizenship were Nigeria, China, Albania, Vietnam and Morocco.
The Report also confirms that trafficking in human beings is usually linked to organised crime, which requires adequate investigative and judicial instruments to be effectively tackled.
We report that traffickers use new technologies to evade the rule of law, for recruitment of victims and maximising their profits.
We see a very worrying trend that criminal networks are exploiting the current migration crisis, and targeting the most vulnerable, in particular women and children, who end up being trafficked in the EU.
We see an increase in victims arriving from Libya and we also hear that the economic crisis influences demand that fosters all forms of exploitation.
After analysing the main trends, the Report examines the progress made by the Member States on the implementation of what we call ‘the three Ps’: prosecution, protection and prevention, reflecting the legal and policy framework.
This analysis on progress shows us the many efforts that Member States have taken during the recent years to address trafficking in human beings.
At the same time, it clearly highlights that there are still many gaps in the development and implementation of effective measures in the different policy areas.
For instance, the level of prosecutions and convictions remains worryingly low, especially when compared to the number of victims identified.
The crucial tool of financial investigations is mostly used on a case-by-case basis, rather than systematically.
Many victims of trafficking are still not being identified, and so they cannot exercise their right.
Providing unconditional access to assistance, support and protection to victims remains a challenge for most Member States.
Finally, measures to prevent the crime to happen in the first place, including measures to reduce the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation, have not yet proven to be effective.
With particular regard to the use of the services of victims of trafficking, just over half of the Member States treat it as a crime. So you can use the services of a victim of trafficking, and you are not criminalised.
But we see progress also; we see progress by the Member States in ensuring victims have access to their rights; more cooperation at the European, the national and the local level, by government authorities and civil society; more joint investigation teams; bridging the gap in legislative actions.
We do have many challenges ahead. But we have the right foundations, the right tools to address them.
It is clear that the adoption of the EU Anti-trafficking Directive in 2011 has created an important momentum in raising awareness on the need to address trafficking with a wide range of tools, from criminal law to prevention measures.
It is now high time for the Member States to step-up efforts to fully and effectively implement the Directive and comply with its obligations.
But if you will allow me one last word. I think it is urgent because while we are having this press event, there are at least tens of thousands of people in the EU who live in appalling conditions, who as the Commissioner said, are bought and sold like commodities, as simple as that. They are atrociously exploited by criminals for the sake of profit, and by buyers who use their services.
The Commission, and myself within my mandate as EU Anti-trafficking coordinator, will continue to support the Member States in their efforts towards achieving our common final objective to eradicate trafficking in human beings in Europe.