Human trafficking

Human trafficking banner in front of mannequins © ReportersHuman trafficking banner in front of mannequins © Reporters

The victims of human trafficking are often the most vulnerable in society – the poor, minorities, women and children. The EU approach to tackling the trafficking of human beings encompasses law enforcement, prevention and victim support.

A proposal to strengthen existing EU legislation on human trafficking was unveiled by the European Commission in March 2010. The document addresses the problem on several fronts:



  • Criminal law provisions including a common definition of the crime and non-punishment of the victims for use of false documents forced upon them by traffickers;
  • Prosecution of offenders, including introducing the possibility to prosecute EU nationals for crimes committed in other countries;
  • Victims’ rights in criminal proceedings, including special treatment for particularly vulnerable victims, police protection and legal counselling;
  • Victim support, including national mechanisms for early identification of trafficking;
  • Prevention, including measures to decrease demand for trafficked workers;
  • Monitoring, including the establishment of national independent bodies to provide recommendations to governments.

An Action Plan on human trafficking also defines best practices, standards and procedures for combating and preventing trafficking in human beings.

The EU’s current law and order agenda – known as the Stockholm Programme – is further streamlining EU action by bringing together the internal and external aspects of prevention, as well as establishing an anti-trafficking coordinator.

As with other human rights issues, the EU raises trafficking in political dialogues with third countries, within multilateral and regional fora, and at the level of cooperation programmes, for example in development.

Financial assistance is made available through the EU programme on migration and asylum, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the programme Investing in People.