Migration and Home Affairs

Trafficking in human beings

Trafficking in human beings is a grave violation of fundamental human rights and an extremely pernicious and highly lucrative form of transnational organised crime. As such, it is prohibited by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 5.3), and defined by the TFEU as a particularly serious form of organised crime (Article 83), with links to immigration policy (Article 79).

For detailed information regarding trafficking in human beings at EU level please visit the dedicated EU Anti-Trafficking Website.

EU Legal and Policy Framework

To address trafficking in human beings the EU has put in place a comprehensive, gender-specific and victim-centred legal and policy framework, namely the Directive 2011/36/EU  on combating and preventing trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims as well as the EU Strategy  towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings for the period 2012-2016.

Directive 2011/36/EU is the fundamental EU legislative act addressing trafficking in human beings. It establishes robust provisions on victim's protection, assistance and support, but also on prevention and prosecution of the crime. The 2012-2016 EU Strategy has provided a coherent basis and direction for the EU policy in the area of trafficking in human beings and coming to its end has completed nearly all actions envisaged.

Over the past five years a lot has been achieved in delivering key actions as laid down in the 2012-2016 EU Strategy and as required by Directive 2011/36/EU, including the publication of guidelines, manuals, studies and reports. EU actions at a glance, an overview of the work carried out in the past five years, is available on the EU Anti-Trafficking Website.

On 4 December 2017, the Commission adopted a Communication on "Reporting on the follow-up to the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of trafficking in human beings and identifying further concrete action" (see also the factsheet on the subject). This Communication builds upon existing policy and legislation and proposes further action to step up prevention. It focuses on disrupting the business model that trafficking in human beings depends on, improving victims’ access to rights, and ensuring that EU internal and external actions provide a coordinated and consistent response.

Widening the knowledge base, raising awareness and improving the understanding of this complex crime as well as providing appropriate funding remain cross-cutting priorities.

As established in the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive 2011/36/EU, in order to contribute to a coordinated and consolidated Union strategy against trafficking in human beings, Member States facilitate the tasks of an anti-trafficking coordinator (EU ATC). The EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Dr Myria Vassiliadou, is responsible for improving coordination and coherence among EU institutions, EU agencies, Member States and international actors and developing existing and new EU policies to address trafficking in human beings.

Of relevance within the general framework, Directive 2004/81/EC on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration, who cooperate with the competent authorities, and Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.

Organised Crime Dimension of Trafficking in Human Beings

Trafficking in human beings is often linked with other forms of organised crime such as document fraud, drug trafficking, cybercrime, child pornography, migrant smuggling, benefit fraud. Among other forms of organised crime trafficking in human beings has been identified as a priority crime threat area in the EU Policy on Organised and Serious International Crime 2014-2017 and the EU Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assesment 2017. To this effect a European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT THB) has been developed to focus on trafficking in human beings. Under EMPACT THB a multi-annual strategic plan and an annual operational action plan are developed and implemented for the whole policy cycle. Trafficking in human beings will continue to being a priority in the upcoming EU Policy Cycle on Organised and Serious International Crime 2018-2021.