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New measures to combat trafficking in women

The purpose of this Communication is to review measures adopted to combat trafficking in women, and to formulate proposals to fill existing gaps.

ACT

Commission communication of 9 December 1998 to the Council and the European Parliament proposing further action in the fight against trafficking in women.

SUMMARY

Since the first Commission communication in 1996, awareness of the problem has become more widespread and a number of measures have been taken at European level, in association with non-member countries and specialised organisations. But the problem continues to grow. The Commission would like the prevention of trafficking in women for purposes of sexual exploitation to remain a political priority of the EU and the multidisciplinary approach to be developed. This would also involve sending a clear message to the applicant countries to ensure that they take action in this field without delay in cooperation with the European Union.

Trafficking in women has been defined as the transport of women from third countries into the European Union, legally or illegally, for the purpose of sexual exploitation. It covers all forms of sexual exploitation, including marriage for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

The action taken since 1996 (exchanges of information and research) has increased awareness of the phenomenon and its disturbing upward trend, especially in the case of trafficking from Central and East European countries. To make matters worse, the criminal organisations involved in trafficking in women are often linked to other forms of criminality, such as money laundering and the creation of front companies. This second communication on trafficking in women is therefore placed in a broader context, covering all stages in the chain of organised crime and seeking the participation of all those involved in the fight against it.

The Joint Action of February 1997 has led to some progress in the field of cooperation and coordination, an approach endorsed by the ministerial declaration issued at The Hague on 3 April the same year. The fight against trafficking in human beings has also been tackled in the United Nations (special Protocol to the International Convention against Organised Transnational Crime), the G8 (action plan), the Council of Europe, the International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) (regional surveys and information campaigns), Interpol, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and in the context of the transatlantic dialogue. The Commission and the Member States are involved in this work and have supported the efforts of these organisations. By way of example the Octopus programme to combat organised crime in Central and East European countries is a joint initiative of the Commission and the Council of Europe.

The STOP programme has provided support for projects in the area of studies, data collection and training since 1997. But its scope is limited. The Commission therefore proposed another programme (the DAPHNE initiative) to support NGO action designed in particular to enable victims to find out how to obtain assistance. In general, information campaigns should help promote prevention, focusing in particular on clients and potential clients.

The fight against trafficking in human beings is closely related to immigration issues, making it important to train the civil servants working in this field in embassies and consulates. As the victims are often in an illegal situation, the Member States must adopt measures to enable them to remain in the country during the legal proceedings, and receive legal aid and appropriate protection. These two aspects are covered in another communication on victims' rights. In 1999 the Commission will be proposing legislation on the issuing of temporary residence permits for victims willing to testify against the criminals.

The main purpose of the Joint Action of February 1997 was to tighten up criminal provisions in the Member States and improve judicial cooperation. Member States are expected to review and, if necessary, modify their legislation before the end of 1999. Once implementation of the Joint Action has been assessed, the Commission is planning to propose follow-up measures. It is convinced of the need for coordination at international level to ensure compatibility between the United Nations Protocol on Trafficking in Human Beings and EU legislation.

International cooperation between police departments is vital to combat organised crime in general. Some Member States have set up specialised units to combat trafficking in women. In addition, the Europol Drugs Unit has been operating in this area since 1996. Its 1999 programme provides for numerous measures, in particular in support of joint surveys and the development of a training programme.

On the social front, specific social assistance (reception and rehabilitation centres) for victims and stricter administrative checks on working conditions in certain areas are important aspects. In the longer term, prevention is essential if social attitudes towards the sexual exploitation of women are to be changed. To this end the Commission is planning to draw on existing policies and programmes on social issues (Integra), education (Leonardo) and health to combat racism and promote equal opportunities and human rights. The Daphne initiative has similar aims and provides support for NGOs working on the ground.

From the first communication in 1996, the focus has been on cooperation with non-member countries of origin. Development cooperation would seem to be the best way of stemming the increased trafficking in women, since poverty is the root cause. The promotion of pilot projects, especially information campaigns, is recommended and the cooperation of Central and East European countries and the newly independent States, where the trade is particularly rife, is vital.

In the context of the accession process, administrative structures, especially the police departments and the judiciary, in the applicant countries should be improved, in line with the statements in the "accession partnerships" of March 1998. The PHARE and TACIS democracy programmes provide support for the creation and development of NGOs. There is also a plan to open the future Daphne initiative and the STOP exchange programme to all applicant countries.

In the developing countries, besides development cooperation proper, the Commission would like to promote women's rights and specific development action for women.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
COM(98)726 final--OJ 59 of 23.02.2001

RELATED ACTS

Commission communication of 20 November 1996to the Council and the European Parliament on trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Last updated: 20.12.2006

See also

Additional information:

"Freedom, security and justice" website of the European Commission's Directorate-General JLS:

  • EU action against trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children

European Parliament's "Area of security, freedom and justice" website:

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