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Plan on best practices, standards and procedures
The objective of the plan is to step up the fight against trafficking in human beings for any form of exploitation and to protect, support and rehabilitate its victims.
EU plan on best practices, standards and procedures for combating and preventing trafficking in human beings [Official Journal C 311 of 9.12.2005].
The Hague Programme, adopted by the European Council in November 2004, invited the Commission and the Council to establish a plan in 2005 for developing common standards, best practices and mechanisms to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings.
General principles governing implementation of the action plan
In the communication to the Parliament and the Council of 18 October 2005 on fighting trafficking in human beings, the Commission laid down the specific means necessary for developing an integrated approach to tackling trafficking in human beings. This approach is based on respect for human rights and a coordinated policy response, notably in the areas of freedom, security and justice, external relations, development cooperation, social affairs and employment, gender equality and non-discrimination.
It is vital to improve our collective understanding of the issues involved in human trafficking. In particular, it is important to understand its root causes in the countries of origin and the factors that facilitate its development in the countries of destination, as well as its links with other forms of crime. In order to improve our knowledge of the scale and nature of this phenomenon as it concerns the European Union (EU), common guidelines need to be developed by autumn 2006 on the collection of data, including comparable indicators. A common research template needs to be developed for EU countries in order to increase research in specific areas, starting with child trafficking.
The EU recognises that it is indispensable to ensure that the human rights of victims of human trafficking are respected at every stage of the process. EU countries should set up an appropriate governmental coordination structure to evaluate and coordinate national policies and to ensure that the victims are treated appropriately.
EU countries and the Commission should implement policies that reinforce the criminalisation of human trafficking, protecting vulnerable groups such as women and children in particular.
The EU’s policy in this area should aim for a child’s rights approach based on internationally recognised principles. In particular, the policy should respect the principles set out in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and take account of the Council of Europe Action Programme on Children and Violence (2006-08).
Gender-specific strategies should be adopted as a key element in combating trafficking in women and girls. This includes implementing gender equality principles and eliminating demand for all forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation and domestic labour exploitation.
A number of actions to prevent trafficking in human beings will be taken by the end of 2006. For example, EU campaign materials will be prepared to raise awareness of the dangers involved and to publicise crime prevention and criminal justice in order to deter traffickers. A network of media contacts will be created on trafficking to raise public awareness of successes within and outside the EU.
Human trafficking is a serious crime against persons that must be addressed as a clear law enforcement priority. It must be converted from a “low risk/high reward enterprise for organised crime” into a high risk/low reward activity. The EU should step up its operations to ensure that trafficking in human beings does not generate any economic advantage and, where profits are made, to seize and confiscate all of them.
There should be increased cooperation with the agencies responsible for the control of working conditions and for financial investigations related to irregular labour in order to combat human trafficking for labour exploitation.
In the same way, the law enforcement agencies need to work more with Europol, which should regularly participate in exchanges of information, joint operations and joint investigative teams. Eurojust should also be consulted to facilitate the prosecution of traffickers.
Strategies to combat human trafficking should be coordinated with strategies to combat corruption and poverty. Employers’ organisations, trade unions and civil society organisations active in this field should also cooperate with the public authorities. EU countries and institutions must continue to cooperate with the relevant international organisations, such as the United Nations, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Regional solutions for the prevention of trafficking in human beings and the protection of its victims are essential. EU countries and the Commission should make greater efforts to promote regional initiatives that supplement and inspire cooperation at EU level.
This action plan will be revised and updated regularly. The annexed table of actions will facilitate regular evaluation and updates.