In times of crises, states should step up their efforts to prevent human trafficking and protect victims

Strasbourg, France 29/07/2022
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Ahead of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, issued the following statement: 

“We should all remember that Europe is not immune to human trafficking and that certain groups, including women, children and people on the move due to wars or economic hardship, are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon.

In my Memorandum on the human rights consequences of the war in Ukraine, I warn about the heightened risks of human trafficking resulting from the massive internal and external displacement of people, mainly women and children, fleeing the conflict. Council of Europe member states should be particularly vigilant and take all necessary measures to prevent and combat human trafficking in this context, in line with the recent recommendations by the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).

The COVID-19 pandemic and its deleterious consequences on all those living in, or at risk of living in poverty is another reason to be concerned that more people will fall prey to human trafficking and exploitation if no preventive measures are taken to safeguard and reinforce social rights, especially in the fields of education and labour. As recently stressed by GRETA, the COVID-19 pandemic has made children even more vulnerable to trafficking, including online exploitation.

I have also highlighted the clear link between border and migration management and the risk of human trafficking. The current lack of safe and legal routes makes migrants more vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking. This risk is particularly acute for those who use dangerous land or sea routes to Europe in the hope of finding protection from persecution and better living conditions. In this context, it is crucial that member states expand safe and legal migration routes to reduce the risks of human trafficking.

The World Day against Trafficking in Persons is a moment to pay tribute to all victims who have suffered from this serious human rights violation, sometimes at the cost of their lives. This is important but not enough. Trafficking in human beings can take on many forms, but Council of Europe member states have at their disposal a series of comprehensive tools, applicable to all forms of exploitation, to guide them in combating trafficking. All 46 member states are bound by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. It is time to make full use of these instruments to prevent human trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.”

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