Wednesday

7th Dec 2016

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  2. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  4. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  5. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  6. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  7. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  8. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  9. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  10. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  11. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  12. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)

Latest News

  1. EU fraud case sheds light on Danish and Polish politics
  2. Estonia and Finland have best EU science teaching
  3. Italy scrambles to save world's oldest bank
  4. Commission 'shockingly passive' on Lithuania gay rights
  5. Secret tax deals in Luxembourg in dramatic rise
  6. EU ministers approve 'Juncker plan' extension
  7. Commission tries to revive GMO opt-out proposal
  8. Merkel calls for Muslim veil ban