EWL press coverage

Anti-trafficking coordinator: situation in Europe worrying

By Stanislava Gaydazhieva

In an interview for New Europe in the course of a conference on prostitution organised by the European Women’s Lobby in the European Parliament, the European Union (EU) Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Myria Vassiliadou*, said that the situation in Europe in relation to trafficking in human beings was worrying.

She characterized it as ‘worrying’ because according to the estimations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 880 000 people in the EU were victims of forced labour, including forced sexual exploitation.

In addition, she also pointed out that according to a recently carried first data collection exercise, there was a lot of internal trafficking in the EU as well, meaning that many EU citizens were trafficked in their own countries or other member states.

The post of Anti-Trafficking Coordinator was first mentioned in the Stockholm Programme, adopted by the European Council in December 2009. Section 4.4.2 of the programme highlighted trafficking in human beings and the necessity to strengthen and enhance the prevention and combating of trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants. It also called for the establishment of an Anti-trafficking Coordinator.

The provision of Anti-trafficking Coordinator is now enshrined also in Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. It requests member states to facilitate the tasks of an anti-trafficking coordinator in order to contribute to a coordinated and consolidated Union strategy against trafficking in human beings.

The EU anti-trafficking coordinator is mandated to coordinate all the work that is being done on European level on trafficking, to create more coherence and to coordinate the Commission, the other institutions, where possible the MS, third countries and international organisations.

According to Vassiliadou, there is a lot of political will and commitment from the institutions to be well-coordinated and the EU is on a good track. However, more remains to be done because, as recently discovered, up to 11 Directorate Generals (DGs) in the EC are funding projects on trafficking in human beings.

The Coordinator praised the continuous work with MEPs from all political parties and said that the work with member states was increasing as well.

Regarding the conference on prostitution and the call issued by NGOs on eradication of prostitution in the EU, she emphasized that there was a clear direct link between prostitution and trafficking in human beings, because 79% of the victims of trafficking were victims of sexual exploitation. The large majority of those were actually women and girls.

However, the Coordinator explained that the EC is not able to legislate when it comes to prostitution policy per se, but it can do so when it comes to trafficking in human beings. She revealed that in 2016 a report will be published on how and whether there should be criminalization of the people who knowingly use the services of victims of trafficking. She pointed out that this was not the case in many member states.

The Anti-trafficking Coordinator also highlighted that there were many things still unknown about trafficking, in particular the extent and seriousness of the problem, the existence of the different forms it could take and the lack of understanding that demand creates supply.

In order to improve the current situation in relation to prostitution, Vassiliadou highlighted that it was necessary to target demand, as well focus on the gender dimension of the problem, but also better coordination and better identification of the victims were needed.

* Myria Vassiliadou assumed office in March 2011 and is based within the European Commission, DG Home-Affairs. She holds degrees in Sociology and Social Research and a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.

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