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Conference on Human Trafficking Concludes that Europe Needs New Laws

A conference on human trafficking has concluded that Europe needs new laws to stop criminal gangs that trade women and children into forced labor and sexual slavery. More than 1,000 participants attended the three day meeting.

A draft declaration released from the meeting in Brussels says a comprehensive European policy against trafficking should address the entire multi-billion dollar business in countries of origin, transit and destination.

It calls for concrete measures in the fields of prevention, victim assistance, and police and judicial cooperation. The declaration singles out coercive sexual and labor exploitation, saying many victims live in conditions close to slavery.

The document was adopted by more than 1,000 security experts, human rights activists and lawmakers who met over three days.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which organized the meeting, estimates that up to 700,000 people a year fall victim to human trafficking. The phenomenon is reported to be one of the fastest growing businesses of organized crime.

IOM Director General, Brunson McKinley, says this meeting was a milestone and now action must be taken. "We have to get on with it," he said. "We have to do things for the victims. We have to put in place the programs that will end trafficking and assist those who are already caught up in it."

The conference was held with the cooperation of the European Parliament and the European Commission. Jorge Hernandez Mollar, who heads the Parliament Committee overseeing the issue, says the three days of discussions have made European priorities clear. "It became clear that combating this modern form of slavery has to be a priority objective in the daily life of the institutions," he said.

Experts say globalization has allowed historic levels of trade and travel, but unfortunately crime and exploitation have increased as well. The conference declaration also recommends better administrative controls in businesses associated with trafficking. These include agencies that claim to work in tourism, employment, adoption and similar services. The document also calls for publicity campaigns to raise awareness of the danger of falling victim to traffickers,

The draft declaration needs to be approved by the 15 EU member states before it becomes official.