Migration and Home Affairs

Trafficking in human beings

Trafficking in human beings is a serious crime and a gross violation of human rights. It is very often linked with organised crime and is considered as one of the most profitable criminal activities worldwide. The estimated number of people trafficked to or within the EU amounts to several hundred thousands a year.

Trafficking is different from irregular migration or the smuggling of irregular migrants. Once having crossed the border, a trafficked migrant is further exploited in coercive or inhuman conditions. People are trafficked for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation or the removal of organs. Women and children are particularly affected: women and girls represent 56 % of victims of forced economic exploitation and 98 % of victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation. Children are also trafficked to be exploited for begging or illegal activities, such as petty theft.

Protecting the victims and punishing the criminals

The Commission's approach to trafficking begins from a gender and human rights perspective and focuses on prevention, prosecution of criminals and protection of victims. This is reflected in the new Directive on trafficking in human beings, which was adopted on 21 March 2011. In addition to approximating EU States' substantive criminal laws, it establishes robust provisions on victims' protection as well as supports the principle of non-punishment for petty crimes and unconditional assistance.

Increasing cooperation, coherence and visibility

The new Directive on trafficking in human beings also requires EU States to set up a 'National Rapporteur' responsible for monitoring the implementation of anti-trafficking policy at national level. The Commission is acting as a facilitator for EU States to share best practices and to boost the almost non-existent collection of reliable data on trafficking across the EU. To step up cooperation in this area, the Commission will continue forging strong partnerships with NGOs, the private sector, law enforcement bodies as well as with non-EU countries that are source or transit countries.

At the end of 2010, the Commission appointed Ms. Myria Vassiliadou to the position of EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. Her task is to improve coordination and coherence between EU institutions, agencies and States as well as non-EU countries and international actors in the field of anti-trafficking. A new EU anti-trafficking policy website has also been launched, which provides a one-stop-shop for practitioners and the public interested in the problem of trafficking.

The EU Anti-Trafficking Day is observed on 18 October of every year. The first Anti-Trafficking Day took place in 2007.

A comprehensive approach

The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted in 2012. This updated the 2005 EU Action Plan on best practices, standards and procedures for combating and preventing trafficking in human beings. The strategy is a set of concrete and practical measures to be implemented over the next five years. These include prevention, protection, support of the victims and prosecution of the traffickers as well as the establishment of national law enforcement units specialised in human trafficking and the creation of joint European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases.