Concerted action against human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 30 January 2020 (8th Sitting) (see Doc. 15023, report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and
Displaced Persons, rapporteur: Mr Vernon Coaker; and Doc. 15051, opinion of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination,
rapporteur: Ms Isabelle Rauch). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 30 January 2020 (8th Sitting).See
also Recommendation 2171
1. The Parliamentary Assembly notes
with deep concern the high numbers of victims of human trafficking in
Europe, most of whom are subjected to prostitution, forced labour,
organ trafficking, forced marriage or illegal adoption. More than
ever over the past few years, Europe has been a major destination
for migrants, who are prime targets for such exploitation by human
traffickers and smugglers.
Recalling its Resolution
on trafficking of migrant workers for forced
labour and its Resolution 1983
on prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery
in Europe, the Assembly fully supports the decision taken by the
Committee of Ministers at its 129th session in Helsinki on 17 May
2019 to examine ways of strengthening action against trafficking
in human beings. The Council of Europe should do more to combat human
trafficking and to ensure that its legal standards are adequate
and implemented by all member States.
3. Welcoming the case law of the European Court of Human Rights,
which recognises that human trafficking is prohibited under Article
4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5), the Assembly
emphasises that member States must protect everyone under their
jurisdiction against human trafficking and that victims of human
trafficking have the right to have any violations reviewed by the
European Court of Human Rights as a last resort.
4. The Assembly recognises that Article 5 of the Charter of Fundamental
Rights of the European Union specifically provides for the prohibition
of human trafficking. This provision binds all European Union (EU) member
States and EU organs and should be taken as a reference when interpreting
Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
5. Recognising the important work of the Group of Experts on
Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) in the framework
of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking
in Human Beings (CETS No. 197), the Assembly calls on the parties
to this convention to ensure effective and timely implementation
of all country-specific recommendations. National parliamentarians
should assist in the domestic implementation of the recommendations
contained in respective GRETA reports. Member States should increase
their efforts to collect statistical data and produce official estimates
regarding victims of human trafficking and make them available to
6. An increasing number of people fall victim to traffickers
across Europe, in particular migrants. Their exploitation is often
accompanied by physical and psychological violence and threats.
Preventing trafficking and providing protection to victims must
be of the highest priority. For this purpose, member States should
in particular ensure that victims of human trafficking are not penalised,
that they receive adequate health services and legal assistance
and that witness protection programmes exist for their testimony
against human traffickers.
7. The Assembly underlines that trafficking in human beings disproportionately
affects women and girls, who represent the vast majority of victims.
A gender perspective should be taken into account in the analysis of
trafficking phenomena and in the design and implementation of any
action and policy to prevent and combat this scourge.
8. Referring to Article 4.b of
the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the
Assembly reminds member States that circumstantial indications of
coercion, abuse of power or vulnerability, deception or payment
for exploitation must lead to the presumption that consent to the
forms of exploitation set out in the convention has not been freely
given, and is thus irrelevant under this provision. National law-enforcement authorities
should ensure that impunity for human trafficking never prevails.
9. Referring to Article 2 of European Union Directive 2011/36/EU
on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting
its victims, the Assembly considers that the exploitation of criminal
activities of others could be included in Article 4.a of the Convention on Action against
Trafficking in Human Beings.
10. The Assembly furthermore invites the Parties to the Convention
on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings to consider common
policies to combat human trafficking for the purpose of forced marriage
or illegal adoption and better protect victims. In this respect,
the Assembly underlines the relevance of the Council of Europe Convention
on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic
Violence (CETS No. 210, “Istanbul Convention”) and invites the member
States of the Council of Europe to sign and ratify it, if they have
not already done so.
11. Referring to Article 15 of the Convention on Action against
Trafficking in Human Beings and the European Convention on the Compensation
of Victims of Violent Crimes (ETS No. 116), the Assembly invites member
States to ensure that victims of human trafficking receive compensation
from perpetrators or public authorities as well as information on
relevant judicial and administrative proceedings in a language which
they can understand, legal assistance and free legal aid. Seizure
by authorities of financial assets derived from human trafficking
should be used for action for the benefit of victims.
12. Referring to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants
by Land, Sea and Air to the United Nations Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime (“Palermo Convention”, 2000), member States should strengthen,
at European level, the prohibition of the smuggling of migrants
and ensure the rights of victims who have been smuggled to Europe.
13. The Assembly notes that the removal and trafficking of organs
can fall under the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human
Beings of 2005 as well as the Council of Europe Convention against
Trafficking in Human Organs of 2015 (CETS No. 216) and calls on
member States which have not yet done so to sign and ratify both
conventions. Observer States and Partners for Democracy are also
encouraged to accede to these conventions, in order to join action
with the Council of Europe regarding this global challenge.
14. With respect to children who are victims of trafficking, the
Assembly recalls that the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection
of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of 2007 (CETS No. 201)
is the first instrument to establish the various forms of sexual
abuse of children as criminal offences and that it contains provisions
on programmes to support victims as well as to encourage reporting
of suspected sexual exploitation and abuse. A child’s status as
an irregular or unaccompanied migrant should be considered as situations
where children are particularly vulnerable under Article 18.1.b of this convention, and thus sexual
activities of adults with such children under the age of 18 years
should be criminalised.
15. With regard to victims of forced marriages, the Istanbul Convention
requires that the intentional act of forcing an adult or a child
to enter into a marriage be made a criminal offence (Article 37).
As the convention is oriented towards the protection of victims,
it creates an obligation to ensure that victims can recover their residence
status if they have left their country of residence for a longer
period than legally permitted (without being able to return) because
they have been brought to another country for the purpose of that
marriage (Article 59). In addition, the convention requires States
parties to ensure that gender-based violence can be recognised as
a form of persecution within the meaning of the United Nations Convention
relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 (Article 60). Finally,
the convention reiterates the obligation to respect the principle
of non-refoulement, in particular
with regard to victims of gender-based violence in need of protection,
regardless of their status or place of residence (Article 61).
16. Welcoming the decision of the G7 Interior Ministers, taken
at their meeting in Paris in April 2019, to increase operational
co-operation and share relevant law-enforcement information via
Interpol in order to better combat human trafficking and international
crime, the Assembly calls on all member States to support this decision
and ensure that mutual legal assistance is carried out in accordance
with the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters
and its two protocols (ETS Nos. 30, 99 and 182).
17. Recognising the work of the International Labour Organization
(ILO), the Assembly invites member States which have not yet done
so to sign and ratify the 2014 protocol to the Forced Labour Convention
of 1930 (No. 29) as well as the Convention Concerning Decent Work
for Domestic Workers (No. 189) of 2011.
18. Welcoming the Organization for Security and Co-operation in
Europe (OSCE) project Combating Human Trafficking along Migration
Routes (2016-2019), aimed at enhancing capacities to effectively
investigate and prosecute human trafficking and to promptly identify
victims of human trafficking along migration routes by promoting
a multi-agency and human rights-based approach, the Assembly invites
member States and Partners for Democracy to support the setting
up of similar projects.
19. Referring to the revised Code of Sports Ethics adopted by
the Committee of Ministers on 16 June 2010 (CM/Rec(2010)9), which
defines the scope of sports ethics as prohibiting physical and verbal
violence, sexual harassment and abuse of children, young people
and women and trafficking in young sportspeople, the Assembly invites
the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) to consider practical
action for preventing trafficking of sportspeople. Recalling the
European Parliament Resolution on forced prostitution in the context of
world sports events of 2006, EPAS is invited to further examine
issues of human trafficking in connection with such events.
Aware of the multitude of excellent reports by outstanding
experts on human trafficking over many years, there does not seem
to be a shortage of expert analyses, but instead a lack of willingness
to make a change and to revise culturally engrained perceptions
which are conducive to human trafficking. Parliamentarians are in
a privileged position to support such changes in policies, legislation
and action. Therefore, the Assembly calls on:
20.1 governments to establish anti-trafficking and migrant
smuggling commissioners or ombudspersons who can address these problems
and serve as a contact point for victims;
20.2 parliaments to co-operate more actively multilaterally
in the fight against human trafficking and establish a collaborative
anti-trafficking parliamentary network in co-operation with the
20.3 Partners for Democracy and Observer States, as well as
interested non-member States to join such initiatives and co-operation
with the Council of Europe.