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Joint meeting with the Council of Europe Sub-Committee on Trafficking in Human Beings and European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

Lisa Kerker

A joint meeting with the Council of Europe Sub-Committee on Trafficking in Human Beings and European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality took place on November 20 in Brussels.

Ruth-Gaby Vermot Mangold, Council of Europe, spoke about the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (the Convention) which will enter into force on 1 February 2008. The Convention focuses on prevention of trafficking, protection of victims of trafficking (VOTs) and prosecution of traffickers, and is victim-centred in its demands for assistance to VOTs. Ms Vermot Mangold underlined that VOTs should be seen as victims of crime and a human rights violation, and must not be seen as tools for repressive anti-crime politics. She also anticipated that states will envisage criminalisation by ‘clients’ of trafficked persons. The demand must, in line with the Convention, be tackled in order to combat trafficking in human beings. Since the efficiency of the Convention is depending on its ratification, wide ratification is called for. So far, only 6 EU Member States have ratified the Convention.

MEPs demanded that the EU action plan against trafficking in human beings should be put in place rapidly, and asked for evaluation and improvements of the anti-trafficking measures on EU level. MEP Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL) called for combating the demand of sexual services. She acknowledged that the buyer of sexual services is the one who maintains the sex industry and that the Swedish law, criminalising the purchase of sexual services, is the correct focus since it makes the buyer visible.

The representative of the European Commission, Maria-Grazia Giammarinaro, explained that the new European Commission Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings is to be established, and work on the selection procedure is in the makings. A report on the EU action plan against trafficking in human beings will be finalised in 2008, as will a report on the impact that different forms of legislation regarding prostitution have on trafficking in human beings. She underlined that protection of and assistance to VOTs is a priority for the European Union, and that ratification of the Convention by the Member States is called for.