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EU proposes stronger measures against human trafficking

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The European Commission today proposed new rules to step up the fight against trafficking in human beings. The new proposal will help to combat modern slavery by ensuring consistency of national rules on crimes and penalties, better assistance for victims and tougher action to prosecute criminals responsible for trafficking.

Commissioner Malmström, in charge of Home affairs, said: "In the 21st century, we should not have women and girls reduced to sexual slavery, children beaten and mistreated, forced to beg and to steal and young adults compelled to work in appalling conditions for hunger wages.These crimes are not acceptable under any circumstances. We must do everything possible to stop the people responsible for these acts."

According to International Labour Organisation estimates, there are globally at least 2.45 million people in forced labour as a result of trafficking in human beings. Most victims of trafficking are exploited for prostitution (43%) - overwhelmingly women and girls - or for menial labour (32%). Several hundred thousand people are estimated to be trafficked into the EU or within the EU every year.

The Commission today proposed EU rules that would oblige EU Member States to act on the three fronts of prosecuting criminals responsible for trafficking human beings, protecting the victims and preventing the offences. The Commission will also soon take steps to appoint an EU "Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator to make the EU anti-trafficking policy more efficient, visible and coherent, including in relation to addressing root causes and working with third countries.

The proposal would increase consistency among national rules on crimes and penalties. Offenders would face charges even if they commit crimes abroad. Investigative tools used to fight organised crime should be made available to police and judicial authorities.

Victims would receive accommodation, medical care to help them recover and witness protection so that they are not afraid to testify against their perpetrators. They would also receive legal aid throughout the proceedings including for the purpose of claiming financial compensation.

To do more to prevent human trafficking, the proposal envisages raising awareness of potential victims on the risks of falling pray to traffickers, and of public officials to detect cases of trafficking and deal with them. It encourages sanctions against persons who knowingly employ or buy services from trafficking victims. It would also establish bodies in Member States to monitor implementation of these actions.

This new proposal builds on a legislative proposal made in 2009 to replace existing rules in force since 2002. After the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the former proposal has to be reshaped. This will also allow for the European Commission to verify that EU law is correctly translated into national rules and take those countries that are not complying to Court.

The proposals will be discussed in the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers and once approved should be translated into national legislation.

Proposal for a Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims, repealing Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA - Briefing

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