29th Sep 2022

Human traffickers evade conviction

The EU's joint judicial authority, Eurojust, is struggling to get member states to stop human trafficking.

Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands fall victim to the crime in the EU each year.

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  • 'We have had case of police officers being complicit in the trafficking themselves,' said the Council of Europe. (Photo: Hans Op De Beeck)

Many are exploited sexually. Others are domestic slaves or are forced into hard labour under threat of physical violence, deception or debt bondage.

Just 2,000-or-so people in 19 member states were indicted for the crime in 2009 - the latest figures aviailable - and only around 1,250 were convicted, however.

Eurojust, which is tasked with co-ordinating criminal cross-border investigations by EU national authorities, oversaw a mere 79 cross-border human trafficking cases in 2011, down from 87 in 2010.

Its president, Michele Coninsx, told this website that member states are withholding information. "We want them to inform us," she said.

She noted that only 10 out of 27 EU countries have implemented a 2009 EU decision that would require them to inform the agency of cases involving organised crime. The deadline for transposing the EU law expired in June 2011.

For his part, a spokesperson ar the Vienna-based International Centre for Migration Policy Development, noted that fear stops victims from speaking out.

He said many victims come from countries where police corruption creates mistrust of the authorities.

Their mistrust may be well-founded, even inside the EU.

Petya Nesporva, an expert on human trafficking at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, told this website: "We have had cases of police officers being complicit in the trafficking themselves."

Marias Wanders, an advisor to the European Commission said in many cases traffickers have "working relationships" with national police.

He noted that teenagers from well-to-do families in Romania and Poland are becoming more vulnerable.

Parents, who work abroad, leave them to live alone and some of them make dangerous contacts on the Internet. "It's a recent phenomenon. The children have material wealth but are emotionally deprived," he said.

Meanwhile, a mixed bag of national laws at the EU level can produce surprising results.

Bulgaria - often associated with corruption and organsied crime - has one of the highest convistion rates on human trafficing because prosecutors only need to prove aggravating circumstances such as "forced use" and "deception" to put traffickers behind bars.

Scotland has only ever convicted one person of human trafficking due to the heavy burden proof, however.

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