Press Release - 065(2008)

31.01.2008

“At last, Europe has an effective weapon to fight modern slavery”

Statement by Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

“Every year, more than 600 000 people are sold in Europe. They are the victims of international criminals. More than 80 percent of them are girls and women, and 70 percent of them are forced into sexual servitude. Other victims are traded for the purposes of forced labour, illegal adoptions and organ transplants. After the arms and drugs trade, trafficking in human beings represents the third most profitable criminal activity in the world as a whole.

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which enters into force on 1 February and which has been ratified by 14 countries1, is a milestone in Europe’s efforts to tackle this scandal. At last, we have an effective weapon to fight modern slavery.

The Convention is also open to non-European countries and the European Union. I therefore encourage all of them, starting with those Council of Europe member states which have not yet ratified this Convention, to join it as soon as possible. The more countries who join us, the greater our chances of eradicating this appalling crime and violation of human rights and human dignity”.

Statement by Lluis Maria de Puig, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

“Trafficking in human beings constitutes a form of inhuman and degrading treatment as well as a blatant violation of human rights. However, together with the arms trade and drug trafficking, it is one of the few sectors which has never seen an economic slowdown. With the coming into force of our convention, we hope at last to wage a more effective fight against this intolerable modern-day barbarity, which can only be countered if a collective effort is made on a Europe-wide basis. The greater the number of countries that ratify this convention, the better the protection that will be afforded to the victims”, said Lluis Maria de Puig, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Statement by Halvdan Skard, President of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

“The Convention’s entry into force is clearly a milestone in our efforts to eradicate human trafficking, which is blighting our society today,” stressed Halvdan Skard, President of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. “Local and regional elected representatives have a key role to play in implementing the Convention within their communities, because it is in our cities and our regions that the drama of human trafficking takes place,” he said. “Territorial authorities are best placed to take action on the ground, and it is heartening that the Congress Declaration on the fight against human trafficking, opened for signature in 2006, has been signed to date by more than 500 municipalities and regional councils from 35 countries, also from outside of Europe, showing their commitment to combating this scourge.”

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Note to Editors

The Convention reinforces the prevention of trafficking, strengthens the prosecution of traffickers and protects the human rights and human dignity of the victims.

The Convention also:

    - renders compulsory the most basic protection and assistance measures, such as the access to medical treatment, translation and interpretation, counselling, information and legal representation and access to education for children;

    - introduces a period of at least 30 days for recovery and reflection by the victims of trafficking with the possibility of obtaining a temporary residence permit which is not subject to agreement by the victim to cooperate with law enforcement authorities;

    - prohibits the punishment of victims of trafficking and requires from governments in the countries of destination to discourage demand. In practical terms this means that, for example, authorities should prosecute people who know that they are paying for sex with a victim of human trafficking regardless of the legal status of prostitution in any given country;

    - reinforces international cooperation in criminal prosecution of traffickers;

    - creates a permanent monitoring mechanism – GRETA – in which countries of origin, transit and destination will be able to work together, exchange information and good practices, and exert peer pressure to reinforce the prevention and prosecution of trafficking.

1 Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Georgia, Malta (30.01.08), Moldova, Norway, Romania, Slovakia.

Council of Europe Press Division
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Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11
pressunit@coe.int

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