European Network Against Trafficking in Human Beings

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News | LSI Statement on EU Ant-Trafficking Day

On the occasion of the EU anti-trafficking day, La Strada International calls for better human rights protection of trafficked persons in Europe. LSI believes that in order to really make progress in preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, the European Union and its Member States should ensure that the protection of and respect for the human rights of trafficked persons lie at the core of all anti-trafficking policies and that measures taken do not infringe or negatively impact on the enjoyment of the human rights of trafficked persons or other affected groups.

The rise of economic inequality and economic insecurity, as well as the consequences of current and past political and armed conflict, have led to an increase in human movement. Refugees and migrants search for decent life, including security and labour opportunities in Europe.  

Furthermore, the increasing informalisation of and competition within the global economy has led to more flexible labour markets and a demand for cheap labour, triggering migration and the gradual erosion of labour rights protection worldwide. State policies promoting restrictive immigration controls and reducing opportunities for regular migration have created a market for irregular migration, often via organised crime, through human trafficking and smuggling.

These developments have created an increase in informal and unprotected work, and have left a large number of migrants, and specifically migrant workers, vulnerable and open to varying degrees of exploitation and abuse. Therefore adequate state monitoring of and adherence to the labour rights of (undocumented) migrants is urgently needed.  

Human trafficking occurs in an environment where labour regulations are weak or not enforced, and where flexible production patterns put suppliers under pressure to produce cheaply and quickly. We call for an increase in the investigation, detection and prosecution of human trafficking cases, including labour exploitation by businesses. European governments should further increase the opportunities for legal, gainful and non-exploitative labour migration for workers of all skill levels.

States should promote decent working conditions and strengthen regulatory and supervisory mechanisms to protect the labour rights of all migrant workers, including domestic workers and sex workers. Control mechanisms should be set up to monitor businesses' compliance with labour standards and human rights and governments should provide incentives for companies that comply, while enacting sanctions for businesses that do not respect human rights.

Early identification of trafficked persons is a prerequisite for their recognition and status. Acknowledging that non-identification of trafficked persons remains a serious bottleneck in the fight against human trafficking, the development of criteria, guidelines and mechanisms for identification is a distinct priority, which should go hand-in-hand with clearly defined roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders. This is also essential for tackling another identified bottleneck, which is the States’ obligation to provide effective remedies to trafficked persons. Although most European countries have legal provisions for victims of crime to claim compensation for material and non-material damages, in practice, it remains one of the weakest rights of trafficked persons when it comes to accessibility.

To ensure that the human rights of trafficked persons in Europe are protected, we call today for an increase of legal labour and migration possibilities and protection of the labour rights of all migrant workers and adequate identification, support and protection of trafficked persons, including access to compensation.

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