EU launches strategy to fight human trafficking
(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission launched a strategy Tuesday to combat the trafficking of hundreds of thousands of adults and children who are sold for sex, servitude or other crimes.
While police across Europe say the smuggling of humans is on the rise, the number of convictions in trafficking cases has decreased in recent years, from 1,500 in 2008 to 1,250 in 2010, the EU's executive said.
"This is a real scandal," European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said as she presented 40 new measures to battle the scourge.
"Unfortunately slavery hasn't yet been left to the history books. It is appalling to see that in our times human beings are still being put up for sale and being trafficked into forced labour or prostitution," she said.
The commission's five-year strategy includes the creation of national law enforcement units specialised in human trafficking and joint European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border cases.
An estimated 20.9 million people, including 5.5 million children, are exploited for labour and sex worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization.
In the 27-nation EU, hundreds of thousands are believed to be victims of human trafficking, the commission said.
The commission said preliminary data showed that 76 percent of them faced sexual exploitation in the EU in 2010 compared to 70 percent in 2008.
Some 14 percent were forced into labour in 2010, while 3.0 percent were made to beg on the streets and 1.0 percent were in domestic servitude.
The commission said the strategy will complement EU legislation on trafficking that governments must implement by April 2013.