Human trafficking, a major European issue

It may seem a distant problem, but it is not. According to the last available statistics, in 2017-2018, 14.145 victims of human trafficking were registered in the European Union (excluding the United Kingdom). To put it in perspective, 9.301 victims were registered in North America (United States, Canada and Mexico) in 2018 (latest data available for the region).

Victims of sexual exploitation represent most victims (60%), while labor exploitation represents 15% of the victims. 72% of the victims are women (including minors) and they represent 92% of the victims of sexual exploitation. Men (including minors), on the other side represent 68% of the victims of labor exploitation. Other kinds of exploitation include organ removals or forced begging or criminality.

The data mentioned is highly concerning. In a union whose founding values are meant to be “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights” (Treaty on European Union), 14.145 victims of human trafficking are 14.145 too many people.

Women are the main victims of human trafficking. Photo: AP Photo/LM Otero

Will the European Union act on this undoubtedly major European issue? This February, a report led by Spanish Members of the European Parliament Juan Fernando López (Socialists and Democrats) and María Soraya Rodríguez (Renew) was voted in favor by a large majority of MEPs. This report asks for tougher measures, including increasing monitoring of social media and new technologies in general, which are considered to be the main instrument for trapping victims.

However, the main efforts towards ending human trafficking in Europe seem to be coming from private actors. Some individuals, including survivors of human trafficking, lead some of the most prominent organizations against human trafficking in Europe. ECEPAA would like to point out two of them: the Dutch organization “Footprint to Freedom” and the Belgian “PAG-ASA”.

Footprint to Freedom is a Dutch non-profit organization founded by human trafficking survivor Malaika Oringo. Oringo is a Ugandan that has been fighting against human trafficking for almost two decades. Her organization seeks to empower survivors and facilitate their integration through providing them with economic and psychological resources.

PAG-ASA is a Belgian non-profit organization that is over 25 years-old. The organization, led by Sarah de Hovre and supported by a legion of social workers, legal advisors and volunteers, among others, has two core goals. The first consists in assisting survivors by providing them quality and tailored support that focuses on their recovery and in their reintegration to society. The second aim is to raise awareness and fight against human trafficking at a national and international level.

There are dozens of organizations like Footprint to Freedom or PAG-ASA in Europe. However, their camp of action is limited, and they need active participation from politicians and public actors. In the debate, “Turning a blind eye: the human cost of trafficking” on tebruary 18th 2021, Malaika Oringo urged public servants to tackle the root of the problem. Only when there will be clear political determination to deal with this major European issue.

Sources:

Footprint to Freedom: https://footprinttofreedom.com/

PAG-ASA: https://pag-asa.be/who-we-are

European Commission. Trafficking in human beings: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/organized-crime-and-human-trafficking/trafficking-in-human-beings_en (last visit 21/04/2021)

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020: https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/tip/2021/GLOTiP_2020_15jan_web.pdf

EUR-Lex. Treaty on European Union: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A12012M%2FTXT (last visit 21/04)

European Parliament. Stopping human trafficking: MEPs call for more action: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20210204STO97130/stopping-human-trafficking-meps-call-for-more-action (last visit 21/04)

European Parliament. Human trafficking: stronger measures to protect women, children and migrants: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20210204IPR97113/human-trafficking-stronger-measures-to-protect-women-children-and-migrants (last visit 22/04)