New report highlights link between migration and increased human trafficking

The EU report warns of increased levels of human trafficking at the hands of criminal gangs as a consequence of the refugee crisis.

A new report published by the European Commission reveals that the ongoing refugee crisis has exacerbated the phenomenon of human trafficking across EU Member States.


The problem of human trafficking in the European Union

Human trafficking is widespread in Europe, and it isn’t a new phenomenon. Taking advantage of loopholes in relevant legislation, organised crime groups traffic vulnerable people for sexual and labour exploitation, criminal activities, organ removal, forced marriage, adoption and drug smuggling.

Data submitted by Member States shows that trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation is by far the most prevalent in the EU (67 per cent of victims), followed by forced labor (21 per cent).


In the case of labour exploitation, data reveals that as a consequence of the economic crisis the demand for cheap labour has increased. In addition, a general lack of awareness on contractual obligations and working conditions has given way to increased episodes of exploitation and slavery.


Migrants Arrive In Tovarnik As Croatia Becomes The New Route Into Europe © Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Migrants arrive in Tovarnik as Croatia becomes the new route into Europe © Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Unaccompanied children

One of the most vulnerable groups targeted by traffickers are children, who are easier to recruit and quicker to replace. “Although child trafficking is prevalent in situations unrelated to migration, such as within a Member State or intra-EU, the information received suggests that the phenomenon has been exacerbated by the ongoing migration and refugee crisis, with specific risks involved for unaccompanied children,” says the report. Out of 96,000 unaccompanied children who claimed asylum in Europe in 2015, at least 10,000 have ‘dropped off the radar’ reports The Guardian.


For this reason the European Commission stresses how important it is that relevant actors, including border officers, lawyers, asylum officers, mediators and doctors are properly trained.


An evolving criminal network

In the current migration crisis, criminal groups are constantly adapting their routes and methodologies, taking advantage of people’s vulnerability, both in transit and destination countries, and adopting new technologies to continue their activities whilst evading controls.


 Frustrated Migrants Stranded On The Border Attempt To Walk In To Macedonia © Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Frustrated migrants stranded on the border attempt to walk into Macedonia © Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A call to multilateral action

In order to address this worrying situation the European Commission has announced that it will conduct further investigations to assess the scope of the problem, and has called for increased concerted action. It has allocated new funding for actions addressing the integration and safe and sustainable return of traffic victims, with a specific focus on the early identification and protection of children, including unaccompanied children, as well as victims of human trafficking generally.

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