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Trafficking in human beings: MEPs adopt more extensive law to protect victims

24 April 2024 09:25, Lyudmila Kalapchieva
Emission of: Tuida News 3 months ago, number of readings: 178
European Parliament

New crimes at EU level include forced marriage, illegal adoption, and exploitation of surrogacy

Broader scope for law enforcement to dismantle criminal organisations

Penalties for companies convicted for trafficking


The European Parliament has given its final green light to revised rules on preventing and combating human trafficking and protecting its victims.


On Tuesday, MEPs adopted with 563 in favour, 7 against, and 17 abstentions a law expanding the scope of current measures to combat and prevent human trafficking and better support its victims. To broaden the EU’s actions against human trafficking beyond labour and sexual exploitation, the new law also criminalises forced marriage, illegal adoption and exploitation of surrogacy at the EU level.



It will also:


- enhance coordination between anti-trafficking and asylum authorities, so that victims of trafficking who are also in need of international protection receive appropriate support and protection, and that their right to asylum is respected;


- criminalise the use of services provided by a trafficking victim, where the user knows that the victim is exploited, to reduce the demand driving exploitation;


- introduce penalties for companies convicted of trafficking, for instance by excluding them from tendering processes and from reimbursement for public aid or subsidies;


- ensure prosecutors can choose not to prosecute victims for criminal acts they were coerced into committing, and that victims receive support regardless of whether they cooperate with investigations or not;


- provide support to victims, including access to shelters and safe accommodation, with a special focus on the most vulnerable groups;


- guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities and appropriate support, including appointing guardians or representatives, to unaccompanied children;


- allow judges to consider the non-consensual spreading of sexual images or videos as an aggravating circumstance when handing out sentences.






Co-rapporteur Eugenia Rodríguez Palop (The Left, Spain) said: “Twelve years after adopting the directive, MEPs have had to overhaul EU rules, as trafficking has become more sophisticated and the resources at our disposal remained rudimentary. We need to be able to find victims early, and protect and support them. Trafficking is torture; perpetrators must pay for what they have done and victims must receive compensation and redress for their suffering.”


Co-rapporteur Malin Björk (The Left, Sweden) said: “We achieved progress during these negotiations; new forms of exploitation will be criminalised, and the rights of victims, including those that are migrants, will be improved. We are also reducing demand with provisions on sexual exploitation. We have started a change, and now the member states must make the most of this directive and ensure that women and girls are not bought and sold in Europe.”



Next steps



The Council also needs to formally approve the agreement. The directive will come into force twenty days after its publication in the EU Official Journal, and member states have two years to implement its provisions.


By adopting the law, Parliament responds to the demands of citizens put forward in the conclusions of the Conference of the Future of Europe, notably proposal 24(6) on fighting human trafficking in cooperation with third countries; 42(2) on addressing challenges at the external borders; and 43(1) on the safety of migrants.