Time for EU to deliver on promises to end human trafficking, says EESC
That was the message from Gabriele Bischoff, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) workers' group.
Her message was time to coincide with the World Day against Trafficking in Persons on Saturday.
She said, "Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery which we cannot tolerate or ignore. It's time for action to deliver on our promises and for action to implement the strategy for the eradication of trafficking in human beings.
"This strategy cannot be applied without active support from civil society, which often has direct contact with the victims. Victim support associations need financial resources, as do the public services which have to deal with this unacceptable reality".
The plight of refugees, in particular children, deserves special attention, she said.
In 2015, there were almost 90,000 unaccompanied minors among EU asylum seekers and, according to Europol, an estimated 10,000 children have gone missing since the refugee crisis began.
Bischoff said, "We, therefore, need to be particularly vigilant in detecting victims and protecting young people from the risk of human trafficking and exploitation."
The EESC has previously called for increased protection and support for victims who are often identified in the first instance by grassroots civil society organisations.
With its strategy towards the eradication of "Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016," the EU has proposed measures to eradicate human trafficking, such as specialised law enforcement units in member states and the creation of joint European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases.
The EESC believes the EU must also continue to support civil society organisations, which it says are often the first to provide hope to victims by giving them an "escape route" from the vicious circle of bondage and slavery resulting from this heinous crime.
Bischoff added, "The fight against trafficking must be a cross-cutting policy, including a genuine social policy strand as well as anti-trafficking measures. Synergies must also be created with other policies."
The UN says that human trafficking is a crime that "exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex."
The International Labour Organisation estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation.
While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world.
The UN says that every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. There is, it adds, a direct link between the refugee and migration crisis and trafficking in persons.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "Human traffickers prey on the most desperate and vulnerable. To end this inhumane practice, we must do more to shield migrants and refugees - and particularly young people, women and children - from those who would exploit their yearnings for a better, safer and more dignified future."
Article by Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine.
This News Item originally appeared in Parliament Magazine on 1 August 2016