Trafficking in Persons is a cruel global industry that is akin to modern-day slavery.
Worldwide, it is estimated that there are 20 million victims of the illegal trade, who are stripped of dignity in a gross violation of human rights.
The criminals behind it are known as traffickers. They move in organised networks that generate billions of Euros, in what is one of the most profitable criminal activities world-over.
Human traffickers exploit the dream that millions of desperate people have for a better life. They take advantage of their precarious situation, and turn people into commodities for sex, labour, crime, servitude, or even the sale of organs. Women and children are particularly affected.
On World Day against Trafficking in Persons, we aim to raise awareness of the issue that is very often hidden in plain sight, in order to give hope to the victims and protect their rights, while calling for an end to the callous trade by targeting the criminals.
Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, either as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims, and this is also true for Europe. The estimated number of people trafficked to or within the EU amounts to hundreds of thousands a year.
One of the most challenging issues faced in Europe today related to human trafficking is that of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, with an ever-increasing demand to enter the EU due to work opportunities, economic advantage, and grim political conditions in the sending countries.
Legal migrants from outside the EU are however far below the numbers of those seeking entry, and over the years, the EU and its Member States have consistently made it more difficult for migrants and refugees to enter into their territory, increasingly trying to seal off their external borders against irregular migration. Therefore, it is not surprising that human trafficking is on the rise, as refugees are forced to take more and more dangerous routes into Europe, and eventually end up being enslaved and exploited by traffickers.
The “Fortress Europe” approach appears to be particularly ineffective and cruel, and we consequently demand that safe and legal access points are created for refugees and asylum seekers to enter the EU. This will offer them the care and protection they need, and pull the rug from under the trafficker’s feet. A resolution on the issue was unanimously adopted by all of our Member Parties during a Council Meeting that was held in Zagreb on 17 May 2015.
To combat the issue, Europe must stand as one, and face the transnational threat together. Cross-border cooperation is vital, and the EU should show leadership on the matter.
To end human trafficking, we must also tackle the root causes such as extreme poverty, inequality, and a lack of education. These create the vulnerabilities that the traffickers exploit.
The first step in the battle however is to talk about the issue: Awareness is key!