Saturday

25th Mar 2017

EU countries in the dark on human trafficking

Member states lack reliable data to fully evaluate the scale of human trafficking in the EU the European Commission said on Monday (24 September).

"We have so few figures and so few reliable statistics that it is difficult to make an evaluation to see if there is a significant increase or a decrease, we can't really tell because it is such a black and grey sector," noted EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Member state statistics on human trafficking are sometimes unreliable, says the European Commission (Photo: Hans Op De Beeck)

A conservative estimate by the International Labour Organisation put the number of people trafficked worldwide to be some 20.9 million between 2002 to 2011. The UN crime-fighting office says around 2.4 million are in the process of being trafficked at any given moment.

In Europe, the numbers are difficult to assess but most victims are thought to come from Romania and Bulgaria and are most often women, children, undocumented migrants or Roma.

Differing legal standards in member states, problems associated with identifying people as victims of human trafficking and reluctance of some to testify are among the problems national authorities face when collecting data.

In other cases, member states until recently had no legislation to address the issue - Estonia became the last EU member state in April to outlaw human trafficking. People involved in the transport, recruitment and exploitation of trafficked victims can now face up to 15 years in prison.

Meanwhile, preliminary data gathered by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, found that the number of people brought to justice between 2008 and 2010 has declined. Some 79 percent of the victims recorded by the EU bureau were women and girls, with three-quarters of them trafficked for sex.

To improve data collection, the commission wants member states to set up so-called national referral mechanisms (NRM) before the end of the year.

The NRMs would compel public authorities to work with civil society to better identify, refer, protect and assist victims.

"This will produce better data, more valid data and it will also help the victims," said Myria Vassiliadou, the EU's anti-trafficking co-ordinator.

The UK launched its own NRM in 2009, with most of data coming directly from the police, a spokesperson told this website.

The UK's Serious Oragnised Crime Agency (Soca) identified 2,077 people as traffic victims in the UK in 2011, but noted in an August report that the number is probably higher. Of those, some 653 had been referred to the NRM with most of them - adults and children - trafficked for sex.

Last year - for the first time ever -"the UK's NRM cited two cases where victims had been trafficked into UK to have their organs removed and sold.

"Each case was discovered prior to surgery ... none of the persons there had any of the organs actually taken out," an NRM spokesperson told EUobserver.

The Salvation Army, based in London, also identified cases of victims brought to the UK for organ harvesting in April.

Meanwhile, Soca says it still has intelligence gaps when it comes to the transport and routing methods used by traffickers. They also lack data on the use of false documentation with some traffickers confiscating victims identify papers to commit fraud.

The European Commission, for its part, adopted an anti-trafficking directive in 2011. Member states have until April 2013 to transpose it.

The commission will then issue a report in 2016 to assess its impact.

Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

LuxLeaks whistleblowers sentenced again

PwC employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, who revealed how multinational companies dodged taxes through deals in Luxembourg, were given reduced sentences.

EU lawmakers tighten firearm rules

The EU parliament backed a provisional deal with member states to tighten EU gun laws. EU states now have to formally adopt their position before the new legislation is enacted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  2. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  3. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  5. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  6. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  7. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  9. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  10. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  11. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change