Trafficking in Human Beings
Trafficking in human beings (THB) is a serious crime, often committed by organised criminal groups, generating substantial profits for traffickers and involving severe exploitation and violations of fundamental rights of victims around the world.
Since its establishment, Eurojust has played an important role in the fight against THB, which remains high on the EU agenda as one of the priorities in the fight against serious and organised crime for 2014-2017. The first EU Statistical Data Report on THB published by the European Commission in 2013 shows that, while the number of THB victims is rising, the number of prosecutions of THB remains low and the number of convicted traffickers has even decreased by 13 % from 2008 until 2010. At the same time, Eurojust’s statistics show that the number of THB cases referred to Eurojust for assistance has been and remains relatively small in comparison with the number of cases referred to Eurojust in some other areas of crime.
In October 2011, on the occasion of the 5th EU Anti-Trafficking Day and in the presence the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Eurojust together with Europol, the European Police College, the European Asylum Support Office, the European Institute for Gender Equality, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and Frontex signed a Joint Statement to address THB in a coordinated, coherent and comprehensive manner. This joint effort of the Justice and Home Affairs Agencies includes assistance to Member States in the coordination of cross-border action against THB to help increase the number of THB investigations and prosecutions.
In this context, in January 2012, Eurojust’s Trafficking and Related Crimes Team initiated a strategic project entitled Eurojust’s action against trafficking in human beings. The strategic project aimed in particular at identifying and addressing the reasons underlying the low number of THB prosecutions in the EU and the problems in judicial cooperation in THB cases. It also aimed to analyse the added value of Eurojust’s involvement in THB cases and to identify what else Eurojust could do to assist Member States in bringing human traffickers efficiently to justice.
A strategic meeting on trafficking in human beings, organised in the framework of the strategic project, took place at Eurojust on 26-27 April 2012. The strategic meeting presented the preliminary findings of the strategic project and held in-depth discussions in five workshops. The discussions addressed evidentiary difficulties encountered in THB cases, difficulties in identifying THB cases and THB victims, the lack of experience or specialised knowledge that might encourage the successful investigation and prosecution of THB cases and the multilateral complex dimension of THB cases. The Outcome Report of the strategic meeting reflects the conclusions and recommendations resulting from these discussions.
Based on the results of the strategic project, Eurojust has reached a number of conclusions and has identified possible actions that may lead to an increased number of investigations and prosecutions of THB cases and increased judicial cooperation in this area. These actions are listed in the Eurojust action plan against trafficking in human beings (“the action plan”) which covers the period 2012-2016. The final report and action plan of the strategic project were published in October 2012.
The integrated EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016 calls on Member States to cooperate with Eurojust in the implementation of its action plan and to involve Eurojust and Europol in all THB cases with a cross-border dimension.
Eurojust is monitoring the progress achieved in implementing the action plan and carried out a mid-term evaluation of its results in November 2014. A final evaluation took place in 2017.
The mid-term report of the implementation of the action plan was discussed during the Strategic Meeting on Trafficking in Human Beings, which took place in Eurojust, on 16-17 April 2015. The Meeting examined challenges related to the hearing and protection of victims/witnesses, prosecution of THB for the purpose of labour exploitation, and judicial cooperation in THB cases. Furthermore, the added value of Eurojust’s involvement in THB cases was analysed. The Outcome Report, with its annex on the Findings of the questionnaires circulated by Eurojust in view of this Strategic Meeting, has been published.
The responses to the aforementioned questionnaires revealed, inter alia, serious challenges in prosecuting THB for the purpose of labour exploitation as such, especially due to the difficulty in proving the labour exploitation purpose. Furthermore, national case-law on the subject was thereby made available to Eurojust. Hence, the THB Project Team carried out a comprehensive analysis thereof with a view to identifying indicators of the labour exploitative purpose that may assist practitioners involved in the investigation and prosecution of this specific crime-type. This work culminated in the report on prosecuting THB for the purpose of labour exploitation. This report also highlights best practice in judicial cooperation as identified in Eurojust’s casework
A report on Individual Actions in the Field of Trafficking in Human Beings - Justice and Home Affairs Agencies (October 2012-October 2014) - can be found here.
The Joint Statement of the Justice and Home Affairs Agencies from 3 November 2014 - From strategic guidelines to actions: the contribution of the JHA Agencies to the practical development of the area of freedom, security and justice in the EU - can be found here.
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for the Implementation of the Eurojust Action Plan against THB 2012 - 2016 Final evaluation report January 2017
Issue No 2 of April 2010 of Eurojust News
looks at aspects of Eurojust’s contribution to the European Union’s fight against THB. View/download this newsletter
Overview of Eurojust’s press releases and news items on THB:
For further information
on Eurojust’s work in the fight against THB, please contact Eurojust’s THB Project Team at THBProject@eurojust.europa.eu