Labor Trafficking Now More Common than Sex Trafficking in Europe


Trafficking for labor exploitation is on the rise in Europe, and its numbers have overtaken those of sex trafficking across the continent according to a new report.

The Council of Europe (CoE) published a new report on modern slavery, finding that there is a lack of prosecutions, limited labor inspections, and high levels of fear among victims to come forward.

“More and more people are being trafficked to work in awful conditions in Europe, both within and across national borders,” said Siobhan Mullally, head of the CoE’s anti-trafficking group.

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

Most victims of labour exploitation in Europe are men working in sectors including fishing and manufacturing, while women tend to be trapped in isolated settings such as domestic or care work, according to the report by the France-based CoE.

Victims are often reluctant to seek help because they may depend on their traffickers for work, food and housing, and fear deportation or retaliation if they speak out, activists say.

“Coming forward to the authorities is a risk many victims feel they are unable to take,” said Kate Roberts, head of office at the Human Trafficking Foundation, which is based in Britain.

European nations’ anti-trafficking laws must be backed up by stronger labour legislation and training for labour inspectors to cover the whole economy and identify victims, the CoE said.

The Council of Europe promotes human rights and democracy in its 47 member states, which include most European countries. The Council’s own legally-binding anti-trafficking convention has been signed by all European member states except Russia. It requires signatories to take comprehensive actions to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute offenders.

With the launch of the report, Mullaly emphasized that “States across Europe need to work closely together with NGOs, trade unions and the private sector to help end this heinous exploitation and abuse.”

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