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European Commission

Cecilia Malmström

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

EU Member States must respond to the increase in human trafficking

Press conference on trafficking in human beings/Brussels

15 April 2013

More than 23.600 people were identified or presumed victims of trafficking in the EU over the period 2008 to 2010. This is the most striking figure emerging from the first report on trafficking in human beings in Europe published today by the European Commission.

In addition to this, the number of unrecorded cases is also thought to be substantial; what we know is just the tip of the iceberg.

It is hard to believe that in our free and democratic European countries, 23.600 human beings can be deprived of their liberty, exploited and traded as commodities for profit.

But this is the sad truth, and as we speak, men, women, and children are being sold for sex, hard labour in agriculture, construction, or the textile industry.

They are forced into marriages, domestic servitude, begging or have their organs removed for trade.

These are the most vulnerable in our societies who increasingly become targets of this slavery of our times.

We also see signs of organised crime gangs increasing their trafficking activities as demand for forced labour increases in the EU in parallel with the worsening economic crisis.

Unfortunately today, we know with certainty that the situation regarding human trafficking in Europe has deteriorated: the number of confirmed and presumed victims of trafficking increased by 18% between 2008 and 2010.

The report shows that almost seven out of ten trafficking victims in Europe are women, 15 per cent are children.

More than half of the victims (61 percent) come from countries within the EU, most frequently Romania and Bulgaria, with Nigeria and China as the most common country of origin outside the Union.

The majority of victims are sold (62 per cent) for sexual exploitation, and 25 per cent are sold for forced labour. The remaining are subject to other forms of exploitation, such as forced begging and removal of organs for trade.

These are often very vulnerable people, and in order to increase their awareness of their rights we are also publishing today a handbook that provides a clear overview and accessible information for victims, practitioners and Member States.

The rights of victims of trafficking in human beings range from emergency assistance and health care to labour rights, rights regarding access to justice and to a lawyer, residence, as well as possibilities of claiming compensation.

Today's report on trafficking illustrates a further daunting fact: the number of traffickers convicted of their crimes is shrinking. In 2008, 1534 people were convicted of trafficking in human beings in Europe. Two years later, that number had shrunk by almost two hundred convictions.

Despite the increasing number of victims and the decreasing number of convictions, only a few Member States have implemented the new and stronger legal framework for addressing trafficking in human beings, even though it was agreed, with strong support, by all member states back in 2011.

Until today only six countries out of the 27 EU Member States (Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Sweden) have reported to the European Commission that they have fully implemented these new laws into national legislation.

The deadline passed on April 6, after a two-year grace period. It is high time for Member States to stop dragging their feet.

Today's statistics from the European Commission show how urgent it is that each EU country implements the new EU trafficking legislation, and prioritises investigations and legal action against these crimes.

With the new legislation, courts all over Europe will judge crimes relating to human trafficking as equally severe, and EU countries will provide proper support to those who have being suffering from this horrendous crime. That would be a strong and clear signal to victims that we will not let their suffering continue.

I expect all Member States to fulfil their obligations and transpose the Anti-trafficking Directive into national law without delay and I will not hesitate to take the necessary measures to ensure that this is being done.

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