Anti-trafficking day in Warsaw: EU member States pledge increased cooperation in the fight against trafficking of human beings

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The fifth European Union Anti-Trafficking day was held in Warsaw, Poland, on October 18, 2011. Entitled “Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings”, the event was organised jointly by the Polish EU Presidency, the European Commission, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator and seven EU Agencies, and was focused on how to improve cooperation between EU Agencies and other stakeholders in the fight against trafficking in human beings (THB).

Launched in 2007 by the European Union, the Anti-Trafficking Day takes place each year on October 18, and is hosted by the country presiding the EU, hence Poland this year. It brings together member States, the European Commission, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator and the following EU Agencies: the European Police College (CEPOL), the EU Asylum Support Office (EASO), the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the European Police Office (Europol), the European judicial cooperation body Eurojust, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), and the European frontier agency Frontex.  Academic institutions and NGOs also participate in the event.

The Warsaw conference was opened by the Polish Minister of the Interior and Administration, Jerzy Miller. The EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Dr. Myria Vassiliadou, introduced the debates between the directors of the various EU agencies, which concluded by a joint statement in which they pledged to “address trafficking in human beings in a coordinated, coherent and comprehensive manner […] in partnership with EU Member States, EU institutions and other partners”. In particular, they announced the creation, in each agency, of a unique contact in charge of all aspects of the fight against trafficking, who will act as interlocutor to other EU organisms as well as intergovernmental organisations and NGOs.

The Warsaw conference also led to a series of initiatives organised in Poland by local authorities and the local police, among others in schools, where youngsters were informed on how to protect themselves from traffickers when travelling abroad.

The third most profitable area of organised crime worldwide
According to Frontex, “6,991 potential victims of trafficking were reported by 27 countries in 2009, up 34% on the 2008 figure of 5,200 potential victims”. That same year, the EU initiated 3,000 investigations related to human trafficking. Also according to Frontex, the annual income from trafficking in the world amounts to 23 billion euros. And according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is the third most profitable area of organised crime, after drug trafficking and illegal trade in arms.

Sixty percent of victims in the EU are women; 25 percent are men, and 15 percent are children and young people. The number of male victims is increasing, most of them being held in forced labour. They come mainly from four countries: Pakistan, Bolivia, Vietnam and China.

The exact extent of THB globally is not precisely known, and estimates vary widely. A conservative UN estimate puts the figure at around 2.5 million. According to a UN working group on the subject quoted by Frontex, THB is as modern slavery that traps more people today than in the entire 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade.