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The Global Slavery Index 2016 Report
(Click to watch video)
Trafficking in human beings is a heinous crime and a violation of fundamental rights.
Commissioner Avramopoulos, responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, together with the EU Anti-trafficking coordinator Myria Vassiliadou, recently presented the first Commission Report on progress in the fight against trafficking.
The report charts recent trends, it examines advances made and highlights the key challenges that the EU and its Member States need to address as a priority.
According to the latest data available, nearly 16,000 women, men, girls and boys are registered as victims of trafficking in the EU. However, given the complexity of reporting on this phenomenon, the actual number of victims is likely to be significantly higher than those registered by national authorities. Among the different forms of trafficking, trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is still the most widespread (67% of registered victims), followed by trafficking for labour exploitation (21% of registered victims).
Over three quarters of the registered victims were women, while at least 15% were children. Child trafficking is reported by Member States as one of the trends that is increasing most sharply in the EU, with almost 2,500 victims in 2013-2014. Quite importantly, criminal networks are exploi-ting the current migration crisis by targeting the most vulnerable groups of people – and there’s none more vulnerable than a child.
There are, indeed, many gaps in the development and implementation of effective measures in different policy areas regarding human trafficking. For instance, the level of prosecutions and convictions remains worryingly low, especially when compared to the number of victims identified. To successfully tackle the challenges arising from trafficking, EU Member States need to fully and correctly implement the EU Anti-trafficking Directive of 2011.
This Directive introduces a gender perspective in areas such as criminal law provisions, pro-secution of offenders and support for victims.
The Report suggests that victims of human trafficking must not be criminalised, but, rather, those who exploit them and abuse them. Dimitris Avramopoulos has said that “we must prosecute those responsible and ensure appropriate convictions”.
Indeed, a top priority should be a reduction in the demand that triggers trafficking for all forms of exploitation.
We do have many challenges ahead. However, we have the right tools to address them.
Although significant progress has been made at eliminating incidents of trafficking in human beings, it is evident that more needs to be done; it is unacceptable that in the 21st century people are stripped of their fundamental human rights and are treated as commodities.
The Commission will continue working on a coordinated and consistent response in order to decisively tackle trafficking in human beings in close coordination with EU Member States.
Women and unaccompanied minors are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, usually in the form of sex slavery. But a report noted other horrific forms of exploitation, such as using pregnant women to sell babies.
The problem of human trafficking in Europe is likely being exacerbated by the massive inflow of migrants, according to the first report of its kind by the European Commission (EC).
More than 1 million people sought asylum arrived in Europe last year, including nearly 90,000 unaccompanied minors - nearly four times as many as in 2014.
"Children are one of the most vulnerable groups targeted by traffickers," the EC reported, adding that they are "easy to recruit and quick to replace."
"Although child trafficking is prevalent in situations unrelated to migration," the report continued, "the information received suggests that the phenomenon has been exacerbated by the ongoing migration crisis."
Nearly 16,000 women, men and children registered as trafficking victims in 2013-14, before last year's migration surge. But the difficulty in gathering reliable information on the subject means that the real number of victims is almost certainly "substantially higher," according to the report.
Slightly more than two-thirds of registered victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Forced labor was the second most common form of exploitation, according to the report.
The EC also cited cases of trafficking of pregnant women to sell their newborn babies, as well as of people for the purpose of organ removal.
Read more: Brussels warns that mass migration to EU may exacerbate human trafficking
The number of children trafficked to EU countries by gangs - often for prostitution - is rising and the UK is a major destination, new data show.
The European Commission says child trafficking is "one of the trends that is increasing most sharply".
In 2013-2014 there were 15,846 registered victims of trafficking in the EU, at least 15% of them children.
Three-quarters of the victims were women, and 67% were trafficked for sex. Many other victims were not detected.
According to the official Commission figures, the UK registered 1,358 victims in 2013-2014, and the Netherlands registered the most - 1,561.
The Commission's research identified ever younger children becoming victims of trafficking and growing numbers of girls from Nigeria being pressed into the sex trade.
The EU has also seen an increase in the number of unaccompanied child asylum-seekers at risk of criminal exploitation.
Children from poor Roma (Gypsy) communities are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, the Commission says, with the UK and France the main destination countries.
Once there, they are exploited for sex, begging and petty crimes.
The Commission report says "there are solid grounds to believe that the actual numbers of victims of trafficking in the EU are substantially higher".
A report by the EU police agency Europol in February noted that most victims of human trafficking (71%) and most suspects (70%) in Europe were EU nationals.
In 2015 Italy saw a 300% increase in the number of Nigerian victims of trafficking arriving by sea compared to 2014, with about half of them unaccompanied children.
Europe's migrant crisis, fuelled chiefly by wars in the Middle East and unrest in Libya, has given trafficking gangs many new opportunities for criminal exploitation.
The top five EU countries of origin for victims were: Romania (top - 3,959), followed by Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland.
Non-EU victims came mainly from Nigeria (1,188), followed by China, Albania, Vietnam and Morocco.
The report says the EU's Schengen Information System (SIS) - a cross-border database - is especially useful as a tool for tracking down child victims. It contains more than 30,000 alerts on missing adults and almost 60,000 alerts on missing minors.
It's not terribly surprising to learn that many trafficking victims have been exploited in a hotel. It seems part and parcel of every movie we have seen about forced commercial sexual exploitation. The hotels are usually seedy under the radar locales or the high-end luxury kind where wealthy men, often foreign, abuse girls and women. None of this seems to have much to do with the general population, or does it?
It does. As much as we want to believe otherwise, the reality of human trafficking isn't far from home. The good news is that as we jaunt from trip to trip this summer (and into the holiday season), when given the right tools, we can actually help identify and decrease human trafficking. Collaboration between hotels, travellers and NGOs can make a huge impact on combatting trafficking. To get the ball rolling, the non-governmental organization ECPAT-USA and members of the travel industry founded the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, called The Code, to help hotels learn the signs of trafficking. The NGO also recently launched #DoesYourHotelKnow, a new awareness campaign that alerts hotels and travelers on what to do if we think it's happening (key: you don't have to be certain, that's up to the authorities to figure out).
Here are some easy-to-do steps to make the world a bit better when you travel.
Read more: Five Travel Tips To Help Stop Human Trafficking
Richard Jobson and Emma Thompson's short film about the brutal realities of sex trafficking. Made in conjunction with The Helen Bamber Foundation.
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