2014-02-17 13:16:40

European officials urge governments to protect victims of trafficking, prosecute criminals

(Vatican Radio) European delegates to an international anti-trafficking conference in Vienna, Austria are calling on governments to intensify efforts in the fight against modern-day slavery. On Monday, leading European officials urged that specific steps be taken to protect victims and prosecute the criminals who commit this terrible crime.

“Trafficking in human beings happens on a daily basis all over our region, from Vancouver to Vladivostok. This must be stopped,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. “Today, in a welcome step, the Council of Europe and the OSCE commit to joining forces to this end.”

The conference has been organized by the Swiss Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Austrian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

In a statement published on the OSCE website, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said, “We can never turn a blind eye to trafficking in human beings, which is much broader than a mere problem of prostitution.” “The criminal networks managing trafficking in human beings harm society in many ways. The challenge of destination countries is to identify victims of exploitation in prostitution and beyond and to prosecute offenders consistently. In order to be successful, well-established national and international co-operation is indispensable.”

In the run-up to the event, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings has evaluated policies in almost 30 European countries.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) there are 20.9 million victims of trafficking and forced labour globally. The OSCE reports that despite the size of the problem, there are shockingly few prosecutions: the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report recorded just 7,705 prosecutions globally in 2012.

The statement says conference participants are discussing existing challenges and “possible solutions, such as stronger partnerships with NGOs, increased training for law enforcement and more assistance and protection for trafficking victims. They will specifically review steps to better reintegrate victims into society, from processing applications for residence permits and work permits, to providing psychosocial support that can help people overcome the trauma of their experiences.”

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, said: "Victim identification and reintegration are among key challenges posed by human trafficking, and close international co-operation between the police, the judiciary and society is essential to tackle them.”

The conference will conclude tomorrow following statements by Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator; Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking; Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

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