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Committee of Ministers recommendation on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation
Human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation is on the rise in Europe, affecting an increasing number of women, men and children. The Committee of Ministers Recommendation on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation, adopted on 27 September 2022, is therefore very timely. The recommendation calls on Council of Europe member states to adopt national laws, policies and strategies which address trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, following a human rights-based and victim-centred approach. It supplements the existing legally binding instruments, in particular the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and draws on the monitoring work and guidance of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, and the conclusions and decisions of the European Committee of Social Rights.
Its explanatory memorandum contains a comprehensive package of measures, starting with prevention and labour market regulation. It stresses that member states should provide labour inspectorates with a comprehensive mandate, training and sufficient human and financial resources to enable them to be regularly and proactively present in all economic sectors. Further, they should regulate and monitor employment and recruitment agencies, and scrutinise potentially irregular labour market practices.
Member states should also reinforce and prioritise the detection of cases of trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation and the identification of victims. They should thus establish safe reporting and effective complaint mechanisms, concrete possibilities of regularisation of the trafficked person’s residence status and access to the labour market, and their realistic chance of receiving compensation and back pay.
Moreover, member states should define the parameters of labour exploitation, through either law or guidance, and adopt country-specific guidelines on the interpretation and application of labour exploitation rules. Specific investigation procedures and specialised units within the police and the Prosecutor’s Office, with adequate resources and training, should be established.
In addition, the authorities should ensure that businesses and public organisations act with due diligence and map and tackle the risks of trafficking in human beings in their supply chains and procurement.
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings entered into force on 1 February 2008, following its 10th ratification. While building on existing international instruments, the Convention goes beyond the minimum standards agreed upon in them and strengthens the protection afforded to victims.
The Convention has a comprehensive scope of application, encompassing all forms of trafficking (whether national or transnational, linked or not linked to organised crime) and taking in all persons who are victims of trafficking (women, men or children). The forms of exploitation covered by the Convention are, at a minimum, sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude and the removal of organs.
The main added value of the Convention is its human rights perspective and focus on victim protection. Its Preamble defines trafficking in human beings as a violation of human rights and an offence to the dignity and integrity of the human being.