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Legislation and Case Law Last update : 30.06.2014

The Legislation and Case Law section provides European and international legislation in the field of anti-trafficking and examples of Case Law.  National legislation can be found in the Member States and EU policy documents in the EU Policy section.

Over the last ten years, the international legislative framework to fight trafficking in human beings has been strengthened through the elaboration of several important instruments. On the international level, the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons and the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings are often regarded as milestones.

On the EU level, the adoption of the Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA of 19 July 2002 on combating trafficking in human beings defined human trafficking in terms of sexual exploitation and labour exploitation.

The new Directive 2011/36/EU, on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA, has been formally adopted on the 5 April 2011. It makes explicit that the definition of trafficking in human beings covers also trafficking for forced begging, for the exploitation of criminal activities, for the removal of organs as well as for illegal adoption or forced marriages. The instrument also introduces tougher penalties for traffickers as well as better protection of and assistance to victims.

Complementary to this, the Council Directive 2004/81 introduced a residence permit for victims who cooperate with the police, prosecution service and other competent authorities. This means that every victim of human trafficking who is not an EU national and is staying irregularly should be offered a so-called reflection period.  During this period, the victim can make a decision on whether to cooperate with the authorities in criminal proceedings.

On a national level, the EU Member States have taken imperative measures to combat trafficking in human beings. The approaches often depend on the nature of the problem or whether being a country of origin, transit or destination. As regards to Case Law, trafficking in human beings has been considered by the European Court of Human Rights on several occasions and  there are a small number of reported cases concerning immigration matters relating to trafficked persons in Member States.