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REASON 3: Protect women and children from human trafficking and exploitation.

Victims of human trafficking are mostly women and children, who are trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, begging, and the removal of organs. Human trafficking is a trans-border problem and therefore it is essential that anti-trafficking efforts are coordinated at an international level. This is why the EU has made tackling human trafficking a priority.

What does the Lisbon Treaty say?

The Lisbon Treaty will not only prohibit human trafficking (in Article 5 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights) but will also make it much easier for countries to work together to combat the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children.

The Lisbon Treaty includes provisions that would give the European Union more co-decision making power to strengthen police and judicial co-operation, to tackle serious cross-border crime such as human trafficking. Specifically, the European Union will be able to develop minimum common standards when it comes to defining crime and punishment for a limited number of cross border crimes including human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children.  This makes it harder for criminals to avoid justice by moving to another EU country.

EU action on human trafficking will be taken under the democratic control of the European Parliament, which will take the decisions jointly with the Council of Ministers.

What has Europe done to date?

  • Channels funding to non-governmental organisations that work with victims of trafficking and violence against women since 1996.   The EU also provides funds for countries where victims are trafficked from to support information campaigns to prevent trafficking in human beings and to address the underlying root causes of trafficking.
  • 2002 EU Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings.  The aim of this decision was to harmonize both the definition of the offences and the penalties in the member states.
  • 2003 European Commission set up a group of experts on the problem of combating human trafficking.
  • 2004 Council Directive granting residence permits to victims of trafficking who cooperate with the competent authorities.
  • 18 October 2007 first Anti-trafficking Day to raise awareness.
  • 2009 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings comes into effect.