The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal to amend the Anti-Trafficking Directive, as it agrees with the need for further progress and improvement in the fight against trafficking in human beings and the protection of victims. The gender dimension in the content and implementation of the directive should be strengthened, given that the vast majority of victims are women and girls. The EESC believes that the directive should pay greater attention to victims of trafficking, and wishes to highlight the Member States' obligation to care for and protect victims and ensure their social inclusion as far as possible.
The directive adopted in 2011, is the fundamental EU legislative act addressing trafficking in human beings. It establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions; common provisions to strengthen victim's protection, assistance and support, as well as prevention; key actors to fight against the crime.
The Directive provides for prevention measures to discourage demand and invites Member States to consider criminalising the knowing use of services exploited from trafficked persons. However, the final decision is left to Member States. This has led to a diverse legal landscape across the EU where employers and users face different consequences when they employ or use the bodies, labour and services of trafficked people, which may hamper efforts to reduce demand effectively and across borders. Further, the impunity of perpetrators in the EU persists, and the numbers of prosecutions and convictions of traffickers as well as criminal proceeds confiscated remain low.