The EESC broadly supports the new EU Strategy against trafficking in human beings 2021-2025, but also calls attention to the need of the social dimension to be incorporated into the policy.
The new EU strategy on the fight to uproot trafficking displays a gap in terms of victims’ rights and social dimension. Trafficked people suffer devastating psychological effects during and after their experience. The EESC feels that the situation of victims is not addressed in a consistently humane way throughout the strategy.
As Carlos Manuel Trindade, rapporteur of the EESC opinion, pointed out
Human trafficking leads to huge suffering among victims, it is an attack on dignity. That is why the social dimension should be taken on board in the fight towards trafficking.
Trafficking in human beings should have no place in today's society. Yet it is a global phenomenon with the European Union having its share.
According to the latest available data, between 2017 and 2018 more than 14 000 victims were registered in the EU with the majority of them being women and girls subjected to sexual exploitation. Traffickers, mostly European citizens, are fully aware of the profitability of this illegal activity, the profits of which were estimated at EUR 29.4 billion in 2015 alone.
With rising numbers in profits and victims, the EESC welcomes the Commission’s position that the Anti-Trafficking Directive must be implemented in all Member States and its review should be based on a thorough assessment of the limitations identified and on developments in human trafficking, in particular in the recruitment and exploitation of victims via the internet.
As a deep-rooted form of organised crime, human trafficking has not been easy to fight and in this respect, the role of Member States is of paramount importance as they must stay ahead of criminals, users and exploiters of the victims. The EESC calls on Member States to consider criminalizing the use of services exploited from trafficked persons.
Furthermore, the EESC highlights the necessity to improve sanctions and agrees with the establishment of minimum standards at EU level that criminalise networks involved in the whole process of trafficking and exploiting human beings.
However, it notes that the strategy makes no mention of the significant support provided by community solidarity networks and social partners in protecting, welcoming and integrating victims. Therefore, the Committee firmly proposes that these interventions and work delivered by civil society organizations should be included and promoted in the new strategy as examples of good practice to be replicated.
Since 2002 the EU has been cracking down on human trafficking, and the proposal for a strategy in this area aims to consolidate and strengthen this approach. The 2011 "Anti-trafficking Directive" has been a major step forward in combating the phenomenon but trafficking continues to grow in Europe.
Count social dimension in the implementation of the strategy
The plan provides no measure at all for recognising and enforcing victims’ rights, which should be a core concern in affirming human dignity and human rights. The victims should be granted the right to be integrated into the host society, by means of an appropriate, fast-track integration process. The EESC highly recommends that the Commission incorporate this proposal into the new policy.
The need to create decent and adequate economic and social conditions for people in the countries of origin, which is the main way of hindering or preventing the recruitment of trafficking victims is also highlighted in the opinion. Special attention should be drawn to the people who combine multidimensional poverty with other specific characteristics, vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking.
The EESC believes that the protection of victims at all stages in particular women and children needs to be properly ensured. To this end, civil society organizations operating in this domain and the social partners must be involved at all stages of the process. There is a shared responsibility and the success of this endeavour depends largely on the active involvement of society as a whole and of the messages disseminated by the media and social networks.