European Anti-trafficking Day: Council of Europe expert group calls for preventing human trafficking risks exacerbated in the context of migration



On the occasion of European Anti-Trafficking Day (18 October), the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has warned of the increased risk of human trafficking created by restrictive immigration policies and failure to address the vulnerabilities of migrants and asylum seekers.

Helga Gayer, President of GRETA, said: “A growing number of people fleeing armed conflict, violence, and climate and humanitarian emergencies are pressed to migrate in unsafe conditions. Irregular migration status is a major vulnerability factor, making migrants an easy prey for unscrupulous criminals. Unaccompanied and separated children are particularly vulnerable to being caught up in the web of traffickers. Immigrants in regular situations can also fall victim to human trafficking and be exploited by legitimate businesses using deceptive recruitment methods and loopholes in the labour market regulations.”

GRETA’s monitoring of the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings has highlighted important gaps in the identification and protection of victims of trafficking among migrants and asylum seekers. Immigration policies are too often disconnected from the legal obligation to identify and assist victims of trafficking in human beings, and provide them with a recovery and reflection period, with negative consequences for the prosecution and punishment of traffickers. The practice of pushbacks at borders creates risks that trafficked persons are not identified and that returns lead to re-trafficking [see GRETA’s 10th General Report].

Multiple and overlapping crises increase the particular vulnerability of children to human trafficking. GRETA’s reports pinpoint serious shortcomings in the identification and protection of child victims of trafficking, who are frequently treated as offenders and punished for drug trafficking or other illegal activities. In many countries, unaccompanied children disappear within a few days of being placed in reception centres. Lack of co-ordination between institutions and gaps in child protection increase the risks of children falling victim to trafficking.

GRETA recalls the legal obligations enshrined in the Convention to put in place adequate identification procedures which enable the detection of victims of trafficking, including among migrants and people seeking international protection, and to enable them to exercise the rights to assistance and protection. The Convention also recognises the importance for States Parties to enable migration to take place legally. Special measures are provided for in respect of child victims of trafficking, including the appointment of a legal guardian and carrying out returns only when it is in the child’s best interests.

“States Parties to the Council of Europe Anti-trafficking Convention must uphold their commitment to combating human trafficking, and ensure that immigration policies do not prejudice the application of the protection measures provided by the Convention,” highlighted GRETA’s President. “It is crucial that people who have been trafficked are effectively identified and provided with support, unconditionally from their capacity or willingness to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.”

See also:

European Anti-Trafficking Day Strasbourg, France 17 October 2023
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page