EU: The European Commission’s second anti-trafficking report: A call to end the “culture of impunity”
By Brianna Hertford, Human Rights Without Frontiers
HRWF (18.09.2019) – On the 12th of September 2019, Dr Myria Vassiliadou, the EU Anti Trafficking Coordinator, presented the EU Commission’s second report on trafficking to the FEMM and LIBE committees at the European Parliament.
Dr Vassiliadou’s core message was clear: in order to truly make progress on the EU’s goal to stop trafficking, we need to end the current culture of impunity. This is especially true for sex trafficking, which the report found to be the most common type.
Sex trafficking is immensely lucrative and only exists because there is a demand for it. These are the true drivers of this issue, not the individuals who are trafficked or their vulnerabilities. An effective prevention strategy must target the “buyers and users and profiters,” says Dr Vassiliadou. If we do not address the business model of trafficking, we will never be able to fully stop traffickers from preying on people.
Dr Vassiliadou discussed individual cases of trafficking and general trends in the data, gaps in current policies and implementation, and ongoing initiatives to combat the issue. She presented recommendations addressing the root of the problem such as: criminalising the knowing use of ‘services’ of victims of trafficking; implementing the 2011 EU anti-trafficking directive in judicial and criminal systems to ensure enforcement; and targeting the “chain of actors” involved in this severe crime. To be clear, this new approach would only criminalise perpetrators who knowingly engage in services with a victim of trafficking, and would not criminalise the victims of trafficking themselves.
The legal framework to eradicate trafficking exists, but the issues lie in the coordination and implementation of it at international, national and local levels. It is imperative that a comprehensive strategy is developed to combat trafficking across all sectors. Another key finding was that there is a lack of resources to properly support individuals who have been trafficked, and so an increase in funding for civil society is recommended.
A final challenge that Dr Vassiliadou raised in this session was the “general fatigue” of policymakers when discussing sex trafficking and exploitation. Although policymakers are indeed addressing a very complex and distressful topic, it is critical to prioritise this grave human rights issue and combat the identified culture of impunity. As Dr Vassiliadou reiterated, “it is only when we stop the money and the exploiters that we stop the trafficking.”
The second report from the European Commission, titled Second report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings (2018) as required under Article 20 of Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, was published on the 3rd of December 2018. More information on this topic and the recommendations of the EU Commission can be found there.