Human trafficking is a highly profitable international crime in which people are traded for use in prostitution, forced labour or other forms of exploitation. In a resolution adopted in plenary last week, MEPs condemned it as a modern kind of slavery and one of the worst forms of human rights violations. Resolution author Barbara Lochbihler, a German member of the Greens/EFA group, told us victims needed more protection and that more needed to be done on forced labour and money laundering.
Why was it important for the Parliament to adopt a resolution on this now?
The EU is carrying out a complete review of its anti-trafficking strategy, so this is the right time to give a stronger view of the situation in its external relations.
What measures can the Parliament and the EU implement when dealing with other countries to help fight human trafficking?
We have companies within the European Union that have benefited from slave labour in other countries. Trafficking human beings is one of the most profitable businesses. Europe has to ask where the money goes.
Although the majority of countries worldwide have laws that prohibit the trafficking of human beings, these laws are not well implemented or are very superficial. The EU has a good instrument in its trade policies to demand more action from third countries. When EU human rights rules are taken seriously in trade negotiations, we are in a good position to say, "You have to improve this situation, otherwise it’s impossible to continue our trade negotiations".
Currently it is very difficult to detect cases of human trafficking. Could tracking where the money involved goes help to boost this number?
If we follow the money we can find out who is behind the trafficking. There are of course individuals, but most of the perpetrators are organised crime networks. But for this we also need to increase the capacity of Europol and the member states and also to make sure they coordinate better and improve the exchange of information.
How does the migration crisis affect the EU’s anti-trafficking strategy?
It’s important that Frontex or any border agency agents dealing with refugees and migrants receive training to be able to identify victims of human trafficking. We have to be very clear about this: human smuggling is not the same as human trafficking.
What else can the EU do to help the victims of human trafficking?
First of all, we have to improve prevention and awareness, so that people don’t fall into the trap. Then we need to see that the victims of human trafficking do get adequate legal protection, that they are not threatened with being sent back. That way they will be able to give evidence in court against the traffickers. Currently, we have very few cases where the victims go to court, because we don’t protect them enough.