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EU Anti-Trafficking Day - 18th October 2012

19 October 2012

Recognising AIRE's expertise in the fight against human trafficking in Europe

The AIRE Centre is pleased to support the sixth EU Anti-Trafficking Day, taking place on 18 October 2012.  The AIRE Centre has for many years worked hard to achieve greater recognition and protection of the rights of trafficked persons throughout Europe.  Our anti-trafficking work aims to address this complex issue through a range of practical approaches, including training, litigation, and the provision of advice to individuals and organisations.

In July this year we were delighted to welcome staff-lawyer Matt Moriarty, who is coordinating the Centre’s Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Law Project, funded by the Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation. Through this funded project, we have been able to significantly expand our provision of advice and representation for victims of human trafficking and their representatives.  In particular, the AIRE Centre has successfully advised and advocated on behalf of EU victims of trafficking seeking to access rights to protection and assistance under the Council of Europe Trafficking Convention.  Such victims often experience difficulty in accessing Convention rights, including rights to reflection periods and residence permits, as well as rights to social assistance as EU citizens. 

On this 6th EU Anti-Trafficking Day Matt attended the EU conference ‘Working together towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings: The Way Forward’. You can read Matt's report of this event and the relevance of this event to the work done by AIRE.

The difficulties faced by EU and other trafficking victims in accessing necessary protection and assistance highlights the importance of EU Member States’ implementation of the provisions of the 2011 EU Trafficking Directive (Directive 2011/36/EU).  This important Directive aims to ensure cooperation and common standards across the EU for the prosecution of traffickers and the protection of victims, including through the establishment of a common definition of the crime of trafficking.   The Directive affirms many of the victim protection standards in the Council of Europe Trafficking Convention, and in particular requires that suspected victims of trafficking are provided with immediate and unconditional assistance and support, such as accommodation, material assistance, medical treatment and counselling.  EU Member States are required to bring their laws, regulations and administrative provisions into conformity with the Directive by April 2013. 

While the UK initially decided to opt out of this Directive, we are pleased that this position was reversed and that last year the opt-in was formally approved by the UK parliament.   The AIRE Centre notes that steps are being taken by the UK government to bring the relevant criminal laws into compliance with the EU Directive, including through broadening the territorial scope of trafficking laws, and encourages the UK government to similarly turn its attention to ensuring compliance with other provisions of the Directive, particularly those relating to victim support and assistance.

Trafficking in persons also invokes the obligations of European States under Art. 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Following the ground-breaking case of Rantsev v. Russia and Cyprus (25965/04), in which the AIRE Centre was an intervener, victims of trafficking who have been denied adequate protection, assistance or whose cases have not been investigated properly are bringing their claims to the European Court of Human Rights and seeking a remedy.  The AIRE Centre has continued its significant involvement in the litigation of human trafficking cases before the Court either as representative or as a third-party intervener, and has assisted in developing the interpretation and application of Art. 4 in trafficking cases.  Most recently, the AIRE Centre intervened in the case of C.N. v France, in which the Court examined the meaning of “forced or compulsory labour” and “servitude” in Art. 4, in finding France in breach of its Art. 4 positive obligation to put in place an adequate legislative and administrative framework to combat servitude and forced labour effectively.

The AIRE Centre is also continuing its focus on UK-wide training for advice agencies and other support staff and representatives working with young victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, through its successful Comic Relief funded training project.  Two further conferences will be held this year addressing the assistance and protection that can be offered to victims of trafficking under the law. These will take place in Manchester and London and more information about these events will be posted on the AIRE Centre website in the next few weeks.

In the year ahead we will continue our efforts to help trafficking victims access and assert their rights, and would like to take this opportunity to thank all the other individuals and organisations that assist AIRE in making this possible.  We also welcome the ongoing commitment of the EU to tackling this issue, as demonstrated by the new 2012-2017 Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in Human Beings' (IP/12/619 and MEMO/12/455).

The AIRE Centre supports and encourages EU Member States to adopt victim-centred and human rights-based approaches to trafficking in persons, including through complete and effective compliance with the EU Trafficking Directive.  This EU Anti-Trafficking Day is an occasion to celebrate such past achievements, to reflect on ongoing challenges and obstacles, and to look forward to shared goals and future success.

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