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Eradicating human trafficking: Persistent risks call for strategic approach

Today, the Commission is presenting its Third Report on the progress made in the fight against human trafficking. Taking stock of measures taken since 2017, the report highlights recent trends in human trafficking, the particular complexities in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and remaining challenges that the EU and Member States must address as a matter of priority.

Presenting the report at the Anti-trafficking Efforts: Results and Challenges event with national authorities and civil society, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said:

“Human trafficking in the EU continues to evolve. Nearly half of all victims are EU citizens, many of whom are trafficked within their own country. Overwhelmingly, the victims are women and girls. We need to act to prevent the horrific crime of human trafficking, to assist and protect the victims, and to stop the culture of impunity of the perpetrators.”

Progress has been made in several areas, such as transnational cooperation particularly through referral mechanisms and as demonstrated through the joint efforts of Europol and Eurojust. However, the crime continues to evolve:

  • Nearly half of the victims are EU citizens (49 %), and one third (34 %) of the victims were trafficked within their own EU Member State.
  • The vast majority of trafficking victims are women and girls (72%). One in every four (22%) victims of trafficking is a child.
  • While trafficking for sexual exploitation remains the predominant purpose for trafficking, labour exploitation is also reported. These are also linked to the context of migration.
  • The number of prosecutions and convictions remains low in relation to the reported number of victims. In 2017/2018, 14,145 victims were registered, but there were only 6,163 prosecutions and 2,426 convictions.
  • The crime is increasingly online as traffickers make increasing use of the internet and social media to recruit and exploit victims.
  • The coronavirus pandemic exacerbates vulnerability to trafficking, causes delays in identifying victims and hinders access to justice, assistance and support.

The report outlines a number of priority areas for Member States to focus on effectively combatting human trafficking:

  • A strong criminal justice response to make trafficking a ‘high risk, low profit' crime to counter the culture of impunity;
  • More ambitious implementation of the Anti-Trafficking Directive to focus on prevention, including the criminalisation of those who knowingly use services provided by victims of trafficking;
  • A victim-centred approach taking account of the gender dimension of the crime and ensuring the availability of personalised services that are multilingual, multidisciplinary and multi-agency;
  • Increasing the use of criminal justice tools for freezing and confiscating criminal assets, including through the use of large-scale IT systems, such as the Visa Information System, Schengen Information System (SIS II), and Eurodac;
  • Stepping up security cooperation between the EU and partner countries to address the transnational nature of the crime by identifying common security interests and building on established cooperation and security dialogues.

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