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EU Commission Proposals to Reform the Anti-Trafficking Directive and Fourth EU Progress Report

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The majority of trafficked persons in the European Union are EU citizens, emphasised EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johanson on 19 December, who, together with the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Diane Schmitt, presented new plans for the revision of the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive and the fourth EU progress report on anti-trafficking measures.

The proposed amendments to the Anti-Trafficking Directive include the inclusion of forced marriage and illegal adoption as forms of exploitation to be criminalised. In addition, the knowing use of services provided by trafficked persons is to be criminalised.

The internet plays an increasingly important role in the recruitment and exploitation of trafficked persons. In the future, it should be possible to impose harsher penalties on companies that are partly responsible for trafficking in human beings.

The European Commission's proposals must now be formally approved by both the European Parliament and the European Council in order to be transposed into national law.

KOK considers the proposals of the EU Commission to be of limited benefit. In the course of the previous evaluation, KOK had advocated against a reform of the directive, as it considers it to be sufficiently well formulated in many aspects, but not adequately implemented by the member states. Reform processes are also often lengthy and block political progress, as the difficult efforts on the Common European Asylum System have proven for years.

The criminal offences of forced marriage and illegal adoption trafficking are regulated in Germany outside the criminal offences for trafficking in human beings. Bringing this together is unlikely to help sharpen understanding. It would have been more important to advance a clearer definition of trafficking for labour exploitation.

Even a mandatory criminalisation of the knowing use of services provided by force is unlikely to create fundamental changes. Many member states have already enshrined this in their legislation, but so far without any demonstrable effect on the fight against trafficking in human beings. This is also confirmed by a policy paper published at the beginning of December by the La Strada International Platform, of which KOK is a member.

The fourth progress report shows that the number of convictions has hardly increased in recent years, although there are presumably more perpetrators. In this context, the EU Commissioner spoke of a major problem of impunity.

The accompanying factsheet states that more than 7,000 trafficked persons are registered annually in the EU. The number of unreported cases is presumably much higher. According to the data, 63% of trafficked persons are women and girls, and about a quarter of all trafficked persons are children. The majority of those identified are EU citizens.

The statistics also show that most trafficked persons are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Trafficking for the purpose of exploiting predominantly male labour ranks second, with agriculture, construction, forestry, food processing, cleaning services, housekeeping and household-related services listed as particularly vulnerable sectors.

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