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IMPLEMENTING THE EU ACTION PLAN TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING: ON 18 OCTOBER THE SECOND EU ANTI-TRAFFICKING DAY

pdf mise en ligne :30 10 2008 ( NEA say… n° 56 )

IMMIGRATION > Co-développement

Since 2007 on 18 October the European Union celebrates the anti-trafficking day. This second edition was preceded by a conference in Paris held under the aegis of the French Presidency and of the Commission, in the presence of Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security. The Commission has evaluated the implementation of the EU action plan emphasizing the yet massive practise of human trafficking in Europe. 

The second EU anti-trafficking day was characterized by serious criticism to the present situation regarding  human trafficking and exploitation in our continent. According to Jaques Barrot’s statements, the phenomenon is still largely spread in the Member States and it involves hundred thousands people every year. Most of all it concerns children or women exploited in prostitution, labour servitude or begging. Although EU institutions and the Member States are very active in the field of anti-trafficking policy, final action remains weak. Moreover “trafficking is still a high profit and low risk crime” (see Barrot’s speech in Paris in French language). Though a series of initiatives has been set since the EU action plan was approved by the Council on 1 December 2005 (EU plan on best practices, standards and procedures for combating and preventing trafficking in human beings (EN) (FR), the situation is still critical.

On 17 October the Commission drew up a Working Document which evaluates the actual implementation of the EU plan (EN) (FR) as requested by the JHA Council on 8-9 November 2007[1]. The Commission required the Member States a special effort for the next year.

Investigation and prosecution of trafficking

The data supplied by the Member States show a continuous increase of the cases of  investigation and prosecution of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in comparison with the past. In 2006 the most active MS were Germany (353 cases) and Belgium (291 cases). The total number of cases investigated in the EU grows year after year: 195 in 2001, 453 in 2003, about 1000 in 2005, more than 1500 in 2006 (180 cases of which concerned children exploitation). According to IOM (International Organization for Migration) about 500.000 people are trafficked to Europe every year. In order to favour the investigation of trafficking of human beings many States have concluded bilateral agreements for exchange of information and police cooperation. Though the number of Member States which are able to give precise information on police protection of victims is very meagre. To this regard only Finland, Poland and Italy were distinguished. Police cooperation is performed also with the exploitation of European and international organisms such as Europol and Interpol.

Victims’ support

European legislation provides for a large protection of the victims of trafficking. The Directive 2004/81/EC (FR) (EN) imposes the duty of issuing a residence permit to third-country nationals who were victims of trafficking. The transposition of this Directive has been completed in all Member States except two. National legislations, according to the Directive, provide for a reflection period (useful for the recover of the victim) which ranges from 30 days to 6 months. The reflection period doesn’t give entitlement to residence in the Country. Many MS haven’t implemented the reflection period provision yet. This means that very often victims are sent back to their country of origin without any protection. The MS which have not provided for reflection period are liable for failure of transposition of the Directive 2004/81/EC. The residence permit instead is issued for a period which varies from 40 days to 1 year. Average duration is 6 months with possibility to be renewed. During the validity of the residence permit the victims can search for a job and regularly engage in a labour contract (only in Poland this is not possible). Italy agrees for a direct access to a residence permit for the victims of trafficking showing, in this way, a brilliant and creative implementation of communitarian legislation in this field.

Assistance in victims’ return to the country of origin

The assisted return of the victims is a delicate question. Most of the MS are not able to ensure a secure future integration of the victims once they come back to their countries. Only ten countries have established some funds for social integration programmes in favour of the victims of trafficking.

Actual implementation of the EU plan for anti-trafficking

At the moment the European Union is carrying out two studies in the field human trafficking and it is waiting for the results probably available in 2009. The first one investigates the relation between trafficking and legislation on prostitution, the second one focuses on the various purposes of trafficking including labour exploitation, begging and organ removal. In the same time the European Parliament is advocating for the establishment of European help line for the victims. For this purpose 2 Million euro has already been earmarked. Moreover many MS have signed or even already ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action  against Trafficking in Human Beings. The European Union together with ILO is trying to establish unambiguous indicators for each type of trafficking in order to make transnational comparisons in this area. It is also expected the involvement of Europol, Eurostat, IOM and the European Migration Network (EMN). The Commission also underlines the effectiveness of the Experts Group on Trafficking in Human Beings which has been recently renewed with a specific focus on the field of labour exploitation. In the end the role of Eurojust in this sector is not to be neglected: the number of cases regarding human trafficking increased in the last years and now about ten percent of the coordination meetings of Eurojust deal with this theme. A result which was unthinkable even a few years ago.

The last concern of the Commission on the implementation of the plan regards the external relations. The trafficking in human beings is becoming more and more a pivotal element of the bilateral agreement with third countries (e.g. the Neighborhood Policy Action Plans of the Eu with Egypt, Ukraine and Moldova). Taiex (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument) works in this direction organizing several events relating to cooperation with third countries.

Call for action in 2009

The anti-trafficking policy of the Eu appears then in continuous growth, but it is still unsatisfactory. The Commission asked the Memer States to act in a few but well determined sectors in the next year. The intent of the Commission is not to disperse the efforts and to encourage the action in a limited range of measures. This way the action should result more effective. In particular the Member States are requested to concentrate on child protection systems, national mechanisms for identification of victims of trafficking, systemic training for the personnel involved in this identification, coordination in investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes. The establishment of  National Rapporteurs is specially recommended (only a few MS have a national rapporteur) in order to monitor trafficking and anti-trafficking policies.  In the end it is requested to enhance fight against human trafficking in the external relations, notably with Western Balkans and North-Africa.

The second EU anti-trafficking day calls attention to all these themes and it has been an occasion to reflect on the steps already done and to what is up to be done in the forthcoming future. All the stakeholder are taken into consideration and are invited to take part in this process. As Mr Barrot reminded on the eve of the second anti-trafficking day, all the institutions, Member States, European organisms must cooperate to achieve as many goals as possible. This year the slogan is (see Barrot’s speech) “It’s  time to act!”

Fabio Putortì

Università degli Studi di Firenze (Italy)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------[1] After the request of the Council, in December 2007 the Commission provided the Member States with a questionnaire asking for updated information on the implementation of national anti-trafficking measures. The Commission received replies from 23 Member States.