Sunday, October 18, 2009

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) claims there could be nearly 270,000 victims of human trafficking in the European Union (EU) — over thirty times the last estimate from 2006. The UN’s figures in the Trafficking in Persons; Analysis on Europe report highlights this and, taking advantage of European Anti-Trafficking Day, they are calling for greater efforts to combat the illegal trade.

Today’s announcement aims to bring awareness to the plight of victims, often forced to work illegally in prostitution or labour jobs after being smuggled across borders. Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC executive director, highlighted that few human traffickers are caught, blaming police for not acting sufficiently.

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In the six years since the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children came into force, the majority of EU countries have taken measures to criminalise trafficking both for sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Costa highlighted that around one in 100,000 people were convicted for human trafficking in Europe, noting that this figure was less than “for rare crimes like kidnapping.” Only 9,000 victims were reported in 2006.

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

UNODC asserts the majority of victims are women, forced into prostitution; men are forced to work on building sites or farms, and ten percent of the victims of human trafficking in Europe are children, up from four percent in 2003.

“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”, Costa asserts.