Saturday, October 18, 2014

Background information: EU Policy on Trafficking in Human Beings – Then and Now

Trafficking in human beings constitutes a grave violation of individual rights, freedom and dignity as well as being a serious form of crime. The implications of this phenomenon are beyond what individual countries can address on their own.[1] It is this compelling reality that first led to the development of EU policy on combating trafficking in human beings.

Read here the background information
(By Anca de Jong Bulica for the ECPM)

The ‘then’…

To begin with, two main Framework Decisions constituted the body of EU legislation on human trafficking: Council Framework Decision of 19 July 2002 on combating trafficking in human beings & Council Framework Decision of 22 December 2003 on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography , as well as one other related to treatment of victims of organized crime (which included but was not limited to victims of human trafficking), namely Council Framework Decision on standing of victims in criminal proceedings . These called on member states to set in place a framework/structure for dealing with human trafficking from primarily a criminal justice and organized crime point of view.

With growing realization at the different forms human trafficking can take (e.g. trafficking for forced labour, trafficking for sexual exploitation, trafficking for organs) as it evolves with changing socioeconomic circumstances, a proposal in 2009 for a revision of the Framework Decision on combating human trafficking was released by the European Commission.
The included stronger wording on protection and provisions for victims as well as stronger wording on combating demand. A text was agreed on by November 2009. However, the proposal lapsed as the Treaty of Lisbon came into force, which gives the European Parliament equal footing to the Council in decisions in the area of Justice and Home Affairs. 
Consequently, the original Framework Decision of 2002 was revised and replaced by the 2011 Directive for combating human trafficking meant to be part of a more comprehensive EU policy on human trafficking which is still in the course of developing. The Directive on the rights and protection of victims of crime and the Directive on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime[2] were later adopted and can be considered part of this comprehensive framework of EU policy on combating trafficking in human beings. 
The ‘now’… 
The Directives enable the Commission to better enforce human trafficking legislation as Member states can be taken to court if they do not comply with the provisions of a Directive. Moreover, the Directives approach the issue of human trafficking from a human rights and victim centered perspective as oppose to what was previously a predominantly criminal justice perspective. In particular, the Directive on combating human trafficking addresses the rights of victims in a more targeted manner. The needs and rights of child victims of human trafficking also receive special attention in this directive and are covered under the measures established in the EU Directive on combating sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children (repealing the 2003 Framework Decision) as well. 
The Directive for combating human trafficking,  the most important and foundational piece of legislation within the framework of EU policy on human trafficking, reaches beyond previous EU pieces of legislation in this area and introduces some important principles:
  • It sets minimum standards for provisions for victims of trafficking.
  • It establishes the importance for member states to tackle the problem by addressing the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation related to human trafficking. (art. 18)
  • The Commission is obliged to release a document with proposals of good practice for combating the demand that fosters exploitation, establishing as a criminal offence the use of services which are the objects of exploitation of trafficking in human beings. (art. 23)
  • It recognizes the increased vulnerability of children and provides for special protection and support measures for child victims. (art. 13, 14, 15 & 16)
  • It adopts a broader concept of the phenomenon of human trafficking to include other forms of exploitation in addition to trafficking for prostitution and for forced labour (i.e. forced begging, trafficking for removal of organs and cases of forced arranged marriages and illegal adoption that fulfill the criteria of trafficking (see art. 2 of Directive for criteria).
  • It sets minimum penalties for the crime of trafficking to at least 5 years and at least 10 years imprisonment in the case of a particularly vulnerable victim (e.g. a child) or trafficking that involved serious violence against the victim. (art. 4)
  • It introduces the principle of non-persecution of victims (art. 8).
  • States that the provisions for the protection and support of victims of human trafficking should not being made conditional on the victims’ cooperation. (art. 11 & 12)
  • It establishes the responsibility of  National Rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms to monitor implementation of EU legislation on human trafficking at national level. (art. 19)

The European Commission has produced a document to support effective implementation of measures and legislation combating trafficking in human beings. The EU Strategy towards the eradication of human trafficking, which followed shortly after the Directive on combating human trafficking came into force, sets concrete goals for member states to work towards in addressing the problem for the period of 2012-2016. The issues of prevention and tackling demand are particularly addressed. A main goal that still remains and is due to be tackled in the period 2015-2016, is supporting prevention measures for trafficking for labour exploitation by developing a best practice guide for public authorities.

What are different member states doing?
Information on measures and actions taken by different member states in tackling human trafficking and implementing EU legislation can be found on this link.
A first report from the European Commission detailing the progress made by member states in implementing the provisions of the Directive needs to submitted to the European Parliament and the Council by 6 April 2015 and is expected at the end of 2014.


[1] The latest statistics on the magnitude of trafficking in human beings are well explained in the Commission’s document on an EU Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings. The DG Home Affairs Statistics department also regularly releases statistics on this phenomenon which can be found here.


[2] due to come into force only in October 2015


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