18 October 2012
This Thursday, on the EU day against trafficking in human beings, a high-level conference was held in Brussels on how to end this modern-day slavery. Globally, according to ILO estimates, there are nearly 21 million victims of forced labour, including sexual exploitation. 80 percent of victims in the EU are women. At a speech at the conference, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström underlined the importance of cooperation across borders.
"Trafficking in human beings is a severe violation of the most basic human right – individual freedom - and a horrific crime. It cannot be tolerated in any form, be it in Europe or anywhere else in the world. It implies an obligation, moral as well as legal, to act."
The conference brought together representatives from EU Member States, academia and civil society, to discuss victim protection and assistance as well as prevention and prosecution of traffickers.
In her speech, Cecilia Malmström noted that the deadline for implementing new, stronger EU legislation is fast approaching:
"The deadline is less than six months away, 6 April 2013. Today I therefore call on all EU Member States to transpose the Directive, on time, and making sure that all elements, including mechanisms for early identification and protection of victims, are in place."
The EU directive harmonises the definition of the crime and the penalties across Europe. It lays down provisions to help investigate and prosecute traffickers and deliver victims' protection. Earlier this year, the European Commission also presented a five-year strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings. Among other things, it asks Member States to establish national law-enforcement units specialized in this crime.