Ahead of the 14th European Anti-Trafficking Day (18 October), the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) calls for full respect for the rights of victims of trafficking in human beings during the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
GRETA President Davor Derenčinović said: “Under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, states are obliged to make sure that victims of trafficking are identified as such, provided with assistance and protection, and given effective access to justice and remedies. Our monitoring of the implementation of the Convention shows worrying signs of reduced numbers of identified victims, gaps in the provision of services to victims, and delays in criminal proceedings.”
In the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, GRETA has maintained its efforts to ensure that the thousands of women, men and children who are victims of trafficking in human beings, while being out of sight, do not slip out of mind. Country monitoring to oversee the implementation of the Convention continues, as does the ongoing dialogue with the national authorities and civil society.
There has been a significant increase in online child sexual abuse and exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many NGOs are doing their best to prevent the exploitation of children through the development of digital-media literacy and online safety skills. Human trafficking is flourishing on the Internet and States must actively fight this challenge, in co-operation with civil society and the private sector.
“The European Anti-trafficking Day presents an ideal occasion to remind leaders of state parties to the Council of Europe Anti-trafficking Convention of the legal and moral obligation not to cut corners on the rights and protection of victims of human trafficking”, added GRETA’s President. “All of us involved in the fight against human trafficking must sustain and increase our efforts to ensure that victims receive appropriate assistance and support to vindicate their rights, and that perpetrators are punished for this heinous crime.”
The pandemic is likely to have long-term socio-economic impacts, increasing inequalities and poverty globally. The heightened risks of exploitation of vulnerable groups call for doubling prevention efforts, in particular through social and economic initiatives addressing the structural causes of human trafficking.