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Putting victims first

Courtesy of the Council of Europe

The message from the EEA and Norway Grants conference on trafficking in human beings is clear: Protection of victims and securing their rights come first.

More than 200 experts from all over Europe gathered in Warsaw 26-27 November to take part in the conference which was co-organised between the Governments of Poland and Norway, Council of Europe and the International Organisation for Migration.

The statistics speak for themselves: Several hundred thousand women, men and children are victims of trafficking in Europe every year, and the number is rising.

According to a recent report from Eurostat, there has been 18 % increase in the number of trafficking victims within the EU from 2008 to 2010. Six out of ten victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, while one out of four are trafficked for forced labour:

  • 68% of victims are women
  • 17% men
  • 15% children

Human trafficking is among the worst forms of human rights abuse, destroying the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people. The victims often suffer physical, emotional and psychological abuse and mistreatment.

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The participants at the conference agreed that better cooperation and coordination between and within countries are needed to effectively protect victims and secure their rights. The business sector was also urged to be more engaged in combatting labour exploitation. The participants also agreed that each country should have a network of shelters where victims can seek protection, and also take into account that more and more victims are men and children.

The aim of the conference was to share experiences and clarify the content of the obligation to protect victims as set out in the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Through the EEA and Norway Grants the Norwegian government supports several different initiatives and projects to combat trafficking in ten European countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia.

The activities include the funding of shelters, information campaigns and reinforcement of the investigative capacity of the police to tackle trafficking in human beings.

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