EU Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings 2021-2025

EESC opinion: EU Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings 2021-2025

Key points


  • stresses that trafficking in human beings (human trafficking) is first and foremost a serious violation of human rights. It violates fundamental rights such as freedom, dignity and equality, which are enshrined in numerous instruments;
  • the root causes of human trafficking lie in the vulnerability of its victims, caused by poverty, gender inequalities and violence against women and children, conflict and post-conflict situations, lack of social integration, lack of opportunities and employment, lack of access to education, and child labour;
  • points out that traffickers take advantage of such vulnerabilities to develop a criminal, complex and highly lucrative business model, which is still at present low-risk and high-yield, and that the pandemic has exacerbated people's economic and social vulnerability and hampered access to justice and punishment of crimes. In parallel, a new business model for recruiting and exploiting victims has been developed using the internet;
  • broadly supports the EU Strategy on Combatting trafficking in human beings 2021-2025 presented by the European Commission, without prejudice to the comments, proposals and recommendations set out in this opinion;
  • supports the Commission when it affirms that there is a need to improve the quality of the data collected on this phenomenon in a harmonised way in the Member States. In order to fight human trafficking more effectively, thorough, up-to-date knowledge of the phenomenon is required;
  • notes that measures to combat human trafficking have not been effective enough and that action needs to be stepped up here, with a more comprehensive strategy and new measures adopted;
  • underlines and supports the intention to establish minimum standards at EU level that criminalise the networks involved in trafficking and exploiting human beings, and the use of services arising from the exploitation of trafficking victims;
  • believes that the immense suffering of victims should lead to a humane approach being adopted to their situation at all stages; the Strategy's prevailing approach must not simply be repatriation or encouraging voluntary return to the country of origin, underestimating the conditions they would find there, which would make them more vulnerable to traffickers; it should also cover recognition of the right to integrate into the host society;
  • welcomes the Commission's position advocating the non-punishment of victims for crimes they have been forced to commit, as well as the review – in a spirit of protecting victims – of the 2004 Council Directive as regards residence permits issued to victims of human trafficking;
  • notes that there is no reference in the Strategy to the importance of involving civil society organisations and social partners, in particular trade unions. The role and activities of these organisations should be duly recorded and properly valued. The EESC proposes that this involvement be incorporated into the Strategy and that these organisations be properly supported, including financially