Vassiliadou: "EU will not tolerate those engaging in any part of the trafficking process"
The European Council has adopted a new directive on trafficking in human beings. "This is a very important step towards a comprehensive and more effective European anti-trafficking policy. I would like to thank the Council and the European parliament for the swift adoption of this directive,” said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.
She observed that the newly approved ambitious rules “will keep the EU at the forefront of the international fight against human trafficking by protecting the victims and punishing the criminals behind this modern slavery."
Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti Trafficking Coordinator said: “Trafficking affects the most vulnerable. It is a crime against the human rights of all the women, men, and children traded for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation, removal of organs, begging, and other illegal activities. The numbers are frightening. Several hundred thousand of people are trafficked into the EU or within the EU every year. With this Directive, the EU is sending a clear message that it will not tolerate those engaging in any part of the trafficking process and that it will ensure that victims are fully protected and given the opportunity to recover and re-integrate into society."
The new Directive takes a victim centred approach, including a gender perspective, to cover actions in different areas such as criminal law provisions, prosecution of offenders, victims' support and victims' rights in criminal proceedings, prevention and monitoring of the implementation.
The criminal law provisions include a common definition of the crime, as well as aggravating circumstances, higher penalties and the principle of non-punishment of the victims for unlawful activities - such as the use of false documents - in which they have been involved when subjected to traffickers.
In terms of the prosecution of offenders, the Directive establishes, among others, the possibility to prosecute EU nationals for crimes committed in other countries and to use investigative tools typical for fighting organised crime such as phone tapping and tracing proceeds of crime.
The Directive provides for specific treatment of particularly vulnerable victims aimed at preventing secondary victimisation (no visual contact with the defendant), no questioning on private life, no unnecessary repetition of the testimony, etc). It also provides for police protection of victims, and legal counselling to enable victims to claim compensation. Special protective measures are envisaged for children (such as holding interviews in a friendly environment).
Victims' support includes national mechanisms for early identification and assistance to victims, based on cooperation between law enforcement and civil society organisations, providing victims with shelters, medical and psychological assistance, information and interpretation services. A victim is to be treated as such as soon as there is an indication that she/he has been trafficked. A victim will be provided with assistance before, during and after criminal proceedings.
Prevention aspects cover measures discouraging the demand that fosters trafficking as well as awareness raising and trainings aimed at the officials likely to come into contact with victims, and potential victims to warn them about the risks of falling prey to traffickers.