UN agency calls for better monitoring to combat human trafficking in Europe

16 October 2009 – Trafficking in persons is an under-detected crime in Europe, according to a new United Nations report, which calls for better information sharing and monitoring to combat this scourge.

“Trafficking in Persons: Analysis on Europe” is produced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and shows that less people – 1 in 100,000 – are being convicted for human trafficking in Europe than for rare crimes like kidnapping.

In addition, only 9,000 victims were reported in 2006 – around 30 times less than the total estimated number, stated the report, which is based on the agency’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons launched in February.

“Perhaps police are not finding the traffickers and victims because they are not looking for them,” said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.

The report stated that the first step in tackling this sort of transnational crime is information sharing that has to be conducted through the creation of international monitoring mechanisms on trafficking in persons.

“Without this effort, the international community will be fighting the problem blindfolded,” it said.

The report noted that since 2003 when the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children came into force, most European nations have criminalized trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labour. There has also been progress on data collection on human trafficking within the European Union (EU).

And yet, as the report pointed out, there is a lot of internal trafficking, both within countries and across the EU, predominantly from South-eastern to Western Europe.

It also noted that European victims comprised only a fraction of the total number of victims detected in Europe, with a marked increase in victims from China and Central Asia.

In addition, most known victims in Europe are young women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation, while around 10 per cent are children. There are also detected cases of men in forced labour, like construction and agriculture.

“Lives should not be for sale or for rent on a continent that prohibits slavery and forced labour, and prides itself on upholding human dignity,” said Mr. Costa.

The Executive Director also cited the need to better understand why people traffic their own relatives, and why women exploit other women, noting that the number of female offenders prosecuted for human trafficking is higher than for other crimes.


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