The EESC supports the EU's commitment to preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and to protecting the rights of those who are trafficked and welcomes the holistic, integrated approach of the proposed directive.
The EESC strongly supports the broader definition of the offences concerning trafficking in human beings proposed by this Directive.
The EESC endorses the opinion that criminal sanctions for trafficking offences have to be commensurate with the extreme gravity of these crimes. Therefore it recommends the adoption of harsher penalties and sanctions combined with the seizure of assets derived from illegal activities.
The EESC endorses the view that victims of trafficking are in a vulnerable situation and should be protected from secondary victimisation and further trauma during criminal proceedings.
In view of the special situation of the victims of trafficking, the EESC proposes that they be provided with free, quality legal assistance starting from the moment that the person is identified as a victim of human trafficking.
In the case of minors, assistance and support should consist primarily of reuniting them with their families, if the latter have not been involved in trafficking.
The EESC shares the view that further action and decisions regarding trafficking in human beings should include prevention. In this respect, an in-depth knowledge and analysis of the root causes of trafficking is required in order to be able to combat these factors effectively and thereby reduce the incidence of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is both a global issue and a local problem. The EESC believes that law enforcement and prosecution policies can only be effective if there is an extensive partnership involving NGOs, employers' associations, the private sector, trade unions and all levels of government. A hostile environment must be created for the traffickers of human beings.
Civil society also plays a central role in the effort to combat trafficking. The EESC welcomes the fact that the directive envisages cooperation with civil society organizations.
The EESC supports the idea that there is a lack of comparable data as regards human trafficking. Therefore there is a need to collect quality data on this phenomenon in a harmonised manner in EU Member States through the establishment of National Rapporteurs.