PARIS - The European Union outlined a wide-ranging strategy Tuesday to fight human trafficking which is rising across the region. The new strategy comes as EU officials are concerned about a possible spike in trafficking during the current European football championship.
The European Union posted the testimony of several victims of human trafficking on its website
One of them was a young Ivorian woman named Agnes who recounted her arrival to France as an orphan. She says a French woman offered to let her go to school in exchange for caring for her children. But Agnes says the woman never honored her promises. She escaped two years later, with the help of neighbors.
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom outlined a new EU strategy to tackle the problem.
"We must have a common aim in the European Union. We must stop this form of modern slavery. We have identified in the coming five years more than 40 concrete initiatives," Malmstrom said.
The strategy includes improving ways to identify and help victims, prosecute traffickers and coordinate among EU members states in eradicating human trafficking. Brussels wants countries to establish police units specializing in human trafficking and create cross-border investigation teams.
According to European and United Nations statistics, roughly 21 million people are trafficked worldwide, about a quarter of them children. Women and girls are the main victims, with many victims of sex trafficking. Others are forced to work long hours for little or no pay.
"They are working in the streets. They could be cooking your food. They are selling sex many times a day in shabby brothels or apartments. They are building our houses," Malmstrom said.
Human trafficking is particularly in the spotlight during the current European football championship. The EU's border control agency Frontex is stepping up its watch against human smuggling, particularly of prostitutes. But overall, the EU faces a tough challenge. Malmstrom notes human trafficking is growing across the region - but the numbers of convictions against traffickers have dropped in recent years.