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25th Jun 2017

Demand for forced labour increasing in EU

The economic crisis is leading to a rise in the number of people being trafficked for sex, hard labour or organ donation, the EU commission said Monday (15 April,) but the vast majority of member states have failed to implement an anti-trafficking law.

While the Czech Republic, Latvia, Finland, Hungary, Poland and Sweden have transposed the law, the remaining 21 member states, including Bulgaria and Romania from where most of the victims come, have not.

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  • The EU has published official statistics on human trafficking, but the real numbers are thought to be much higher (Photo: Hans Op De Beeck)

Reported statistics, published by statistical agency eurostat, show that around 23,600 people were trafficked between 2008 and 2010. The figure rose each studied year with 6,309 in 2008; 7795 in 2009 and 9,528 in 2010.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom put the rise in numbers partly down to Europe's economic crisis which has seen public spending slashed and GDP slump in several EU countries.

"We see signs of organised crime gangs increasing their trafficking activities as demand for forced labour increases in the EU in parallel with the worsening economic crisis," she said.

But she warned that the official numbers are likely only be the "tip of the iceberg," with a 2012 study by the International Labour Organisation indication that 880,000 people in the EU are in forced labour, including sexual exploitation.

Among those trafficked, women represent the greatest share (68%) and are mostly likely to be trafficked for sex (62%). Other reasons for trafficking, which is increasingly referred to as modern day slavery, included forced labour (25%) with organ removal, begging, criminal activities and trafficking to sell children accounting for 14 percent.

Men make up 17 percent of those trafficked, while 12 percent are girls and 3 percent are boys.

"As we speak, men, women, and children are being sold for sex, hard labour in agriculture, construction, or the textile industry. They are forced into marriages, domestic servitude, begging or have their organs removed for trade," said Malmstrom.

She added that she was "very disappointed" with those member states that missed the 6 April deadline. The law includes a common definition of the crime - making it harder for traffickers to shop around for lenient justice systems - as well as the possibility to prosecute EU nationals for crimes committed in other member states. There are also provisions to help prevent trafficking by raising awareness and supporting victims.

Human trafficking is 'modern day slavery'

Human trafficking is the slavery of our times, with the victims a tiny cog in a corruption machine that involves criminal gangs working across several member states, say experts.

Opinion

EU: Show leadership to end forced labour

Forced labour and human trafficking may seem distant from ordinary Europeans on the eve of Labour Day, but almost 1 million victims in Europe have little to celebrate.

Parents of EU children win right to stay

Countries cannot automatically refuse residence to parents of EU children simply because the other parent could care for the minor, the EU's top court ruled on Wednesday.

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