Human trafficking

Each year, around 500,000 people, particularly women and children, are recruited and exploited in Europe in various ways: sexual exploitation, forced labor and begging, domestic slavery, or incitement to commit crimes.

Trafficking in human beings (THB) is a serious crime: according to the United Nations (UN), it is the third most common form of trafficking in the world, after drug and arms trafficking. It would generate no less than 32 billion euros in annual turnover.

Currently, two forms of human trafficking are identified in south-eastern Europe. The first is called "traditional" deals. It covers the exploitation of populations that are particularly vulnerable because of their age, belonging to a minority, their precarious economic situation or their gender. The second is the exploitation of migrant populations along the migration route.

The main international instruments

The "Palermo Protocol"

The 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the “Palermo Convention” and its additional protocol “aimed at preventing, suppressing and punishing trafficking in persons, especially women and children”, is the only legal instrument universal binding measure to combat trafficking in human beings. It is the first international convention to provide a broad definition of the different forms of trafficking in human beings. It focuses on prevention, the protection of victims, but also on the importance of international cooperation in matters of prosecution and repression. The protocol defines trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, accommodation or reception of persons, by threat of use or use of force or other forms of coercion" for the purpose of exploitation.

The Warsaw Convention

The 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, ratified by France in 2008, puts the victim at the heart of the system. In addition to the establishment of a mechanism for the prior identification of victims, the development of training for professionals (justice, police), the strengthening of prevention means (raising public awareness), States also have the obligation to set up a national coordination mechanism in order to define, guide and coordinate government policy in the fight against trafficking. The Council of Europe has set up a treaty body, GRETA, which is responsible for ensuring the proper application of this legal instrument.

Directive 2011/36 / EU

Directive 2011/36 / EU, adopted on 5 April 2011 on the prevention of trafficking in human beings, combating this phenomenon and the protection of victims, replaces Council Framework Decision 2002/629 / JHA. It defines trafficking in human beings and its forms of exploitation, covering forced begging, forced crime, organ harvesting, illegal adoption or forced marriage. The instrument also introduces tougher sanctions against traffickers as well as better protection and assistance to victims.

A European coordinator for the fight against trafficking in human beings has been put in place in order to guarantee a coherent approach in the fight against this phenomenon in the EU countries.

A strong commitment from France

For many years, France has been committed to combating trafficking in human beings. It set up the OCRTEH (Central Office for the Suppression of the Trafficking in Human Beings) since 1958. It ratified the Palermo Convention in 2002, and actively participates in the working group on trafficking in human beings of the Office of the United Nations against drugs and crime (UNODC), which aims in particular to promote the effective application of the protocol. It supports the United Nations Global Plan of Action against Trafficking, launched in 2010, which creates a trust fund with UNODC for victim assistance. It is also a party to the various conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on forced labor, but also to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, one of whose optional protocols concerns the trafficking of children. Finally, through programs managed by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE), it finances a wide variety of cooperation activities at bilateral, regional and multilateral level.

At the national level, France adopted in May 2014 the very first national action plan against trafficking, presented by the Interministerial Mission for the Protection of Women against Violence and the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings (MIPROF), collaboration with victims’ associations.

Main goals and mission

Since the adoption in June 2014 of an inter-ministerial cooperation strategy in the fight against trafficking in human beings in South-East Europe, a steering committee has been organized each year to take stock of the actions implemented and examine the program envisaged for the following year.

Our priority is given to the fight against the various forms of trafficking in human beings, in particular to France, and to the protection of the rights of minor victims.

Four main objectives are pursued, namely to:

  • Better understand the functioning of trafficking networks by implementing precise diagnoses, established in and with source countries;
  • Better warn vulnerable populations by raising their awareness of the risk of trafficking;
  • Better protect victims and better prosecute perpetrators by strengthening the capacities of institutional actors and civil society;
  • Better cooperate in order to strengthen our institutional partnerships.

Our mission is implemented in eleven countries: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Albania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.

The Permanent Representation of France to the United Nations and International Organizations in Vienna and the Permanent Representation of France to the OSCE play a leading role in the implementation of this strategy, as do the eleven embassies in the region.

Actors involved

The actions are defined and implemented in concert:

  • with the authorities responsible for combating THB in the countries concerned, in particular the national coordinators;
  • with the French Embassies in these countries.

They are also linked to the projects implemented by international organizations which benefit from French funding.

This coordination aims to seek complementarity of all of our bilateral and multilateral cooperation actions, and to strengthen their impact.

Dernière modification : 30/03/2020

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