EU expands fight against human trafficking
Stricter laws will apply in the EU in the fight against human trafficking in the future. Forced marriages, illegal adoptions, and enforced surrogacy will be included under the reform. Anyone who uses these services will also be held criminally liable.
The fight against human trafficking in the EU is set to become more effective. Representatives of the member states and the European Parliament have agreed to extensively expand an existing directive on law enforcement.
According to the Belgian EU Council presidency, the planned changes include the punishment of individuals who knowingly use the services of human trafficking victims. This could include sexual acts as well as traditional labor services. The new rules will apply throughout the EU.
Longer prison sentences for human traffickers
Furthermore, forced marriages, illegal adoptions and enforced surrogacy will now fall under the law against human trafficking. This is intended to ensure that EU member states combat as many forms of exploitation as possible within their national legal frameworks.
The offenses will be punishable by a prison sentence of at least five years. This means that penalties of up to two years for such offenses would no longer be possible. For particularly serious crimes, prison sentences of at least ten years may even be imposed.
In criminal proceedings involving human trafficking, the distribution of pornographic images or videos will also be considered an aggravating factor.
More than 7,000 victims of human trafficking in the EU
According to the European Commission in 2022, over 7,000 people become victims of human trafficking in the EU each year. However, since many crimes go unreported, the actual number is likely much higher. The annual cost of human trafficking in the EU was estimated at 2.7 billion euros at that time. According to the information, the majority of victims are women and girls, but men are also affected – particularly through the exploitation of their labor.
Belgian Minister of Justice Paul Van Tigchelt stated that the revised directive will enable EU states to better combat these horrific crimes. “Human trafficking is a crime that inflicts significant harm on its victims,” he commented. Before the new directive can come into effect, the agreements must still be confirmed by the EU Council and the plenary of the European Parliament. Afterward, EU countries have two years to transpose the European rules into national law.