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Protecting the weakest - 29/03/2010

EU steps up fight against human trafficking and child sex predators.

The commission is calling for tougher laws against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children, saying Europe is losing the battle against these crimes.

Few reliable statistics exist on the number of people trafficked into or within Europe, but it is probably around several hundred thousand, mostly for prostitution and menial labour. Yet in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, prosecutors brought just 1 500 criminal trafficking cases to court in the whole of the EU. Only 3 000 victims received assistance.

Trafficking in humans is extremely profitable, and most traffickers are professional organised criminals. Most are based outside the EU but there are now growing networks inside too, especially since the bloc’s eastward expansion.

Existing laws would be updated, encouraging EU countries to go after nationals who commit crimes in other countries and to use more aggressive methods for investigating organised crime, like phone taps.

The draft rules also call for more consistency in how EU law is applied from one country to another and for more protection and assistance for victims. Independent national bodies would be set up to monitor implementation.

Concerning the sexual exploitation of children, the commission wants a combination of harsher penalties and more effective treatment for offenders.

The new laws would also restrict offenders from activities involving contact with children. About 20% of convicted child sex predators become repeat offenders.

Systems would be developed to block access to child porn sites.

Studies suggest between 10% and 20% of children in Europe will suffer some form of sexual abuse during their youth. Some kinds of abuse are on the rise, including websites devoted to child pornography.

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