As the world marks International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the European Commission takes aim with a plan to eradicate human smuggling and related crimes. Human trafficking in Europe is on the rise.
The European Commission has unveiled a multi-year plant to try and eradicate human trafficking for sex and servitude. The crime of smuggling of humans into Europe to serve as prostitutes, beggars and domestic servants is a growing problem.
"We must stop this form of modern slavery," said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. "They are working in the streets, they could be cooking your food, they are selling sex ... they are building our houses," she said.
Figures are daunting
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 20.9 million people, including 5.5 million children, are exploited for labor and sex worldwide. In Europe, hundreds of thousands are suspected to fall victim to human trafficking.
The commission said preliminary data showed that 76 percent of them faced sexual exploitation in the EU in 2010, up from 70 percent in 2008.
But criminal convictions for trafficking are on the decrease in Europe, with 1,250 recorded in 2010, 250 fewer cases than in 2008, according Malmstrom.
Releasing its multi-year strategy on Tuesday, the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the commission says it is planning for the creation of national law enforcement units that specialize in human trafficking, as well as joint European investigation teams to tackle cases that cross national borders.
The strategy complements EU anti-trafficking legislation that governments are set to implement by April 2013.
Changes will take time, Malmstrom warned.
"Of course it will take a long time [to eradicate trafficking] ... But we have to nevertheless be ambitious because it's a horrible crime."
tm/ng (AFP, dpa)