In 2013, the UN member states adopted a resolution which designated July 30 as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. They declared that such a day was necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”
The Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons was adopted in 2010 and urges governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat human trafficking in all its forms. The UN plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programs to boost development and strengthen security worldwide.
Many Children Are Trafficked
Almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide are children, according to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons released in December 2016 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Women and girls comprise 71% of human trafficking victims, the same report states.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 21 million people are victims of forced labor globally, and of these, a significant number are also trafficking victims.
The UN plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programs to boost development and strengthen security worldwide.
Serious Threat to Human Dignity
The UN resolution also states that trafficking in persons, especially women and children, constitutes an offense and a serious threat to human dignity and physical integrity, human rights, and development. Despite sustained measures taken at the international, regional, and national levels, trafficking in persons remains one of the grave challenges facing the international community, which also impairs the enjoyment of human rights and needs a more concerted international response.
According to the 2016 UN report, women and girls tend to be trafficked for marriages and sexual slavery, while men and boys are typically exploited for forced labor in the mining sector, as porters, and as soldiers. It also states that refugees from war and persecution are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking.
Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) raises alarm
Ahead of the World Day against Trafficking, the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) raises alarm about the high prevalence of child trafficking in Europe and the particular risks of migrant and refugee children falling victim to trafficking and exploitation.
Children represent a quarter of identified victims of human trafficking on average in Europe, according to available data. Children are subjected to trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, forced marriage and, increasingly, forced criminality. Several of GRETA’s recent country evaluation reports highlight serious shortcomings in the response of States to the protection of children at risk of being trafficked and the provision of assistance to child victims of human trafficking.
Siobhán Mullally, President of GRETA, said: “The risks faced by migrant and refugee children in Europe are very grave. Trafficking of children occurs en route to Europe, and internally within Europe. This is a humanitarian crisis. States must act urgently to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all children, including migrant and refugee children.”
In Europe today, children are living in transit zones, at borders and in camps, often with little or no protection or assistance, and limited opportunities to integrate into host communities. Delays in the appointment of guardians, increased restrictions on family reunification in many countries, limited opportunities for resettlement or relocation, and sometimes hostile attitude to child migrants and refugees, create further difficulties for children seeking to escape the reaches of trafficking networks.
GRETA reminds States that a protective environment for all children is essential to reduce their vulnerability to trafficking and to ensure respect for the child’s rights and best interests. In order to meet their obligations to prevent human trafficking and reduce children’s vulnerability to exploitation, States should guarantee adequate resourcing of child protection systems, take special measures for migrant and refugee children and provide support for family reunification when in the child’s best interests.
GRETA stresses the importance of ensuring that human rights and States’ international obligations are fully respected at borders and in all immigration procedures. A human-rights based approach to combating human trafficking is a core obligation and a cornerstone of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Being
Vessela Banova, Methodist Director of the Children and Space Association and a member of the Board of the National Network for Children, is part of the expert group that insists on adequate resourcing of child protection systems, special measures for migrant and refugee children and support for family reunification when in the child’s best interests.