Delegation of the European Union to The Gambia

EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: High-Level Meeting on the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons

New York, 22/11/2021 - 17:08, UNIQUE ID: 211122_11
Statements on behalf of the EU

22 November 2021, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union delivered by Commissioner Ylva Johansson at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons

Dear President,

Honourable Members of the General Assembly,

Dear participants in this high level meeting,


I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

Trafficking in human beings is a serious crime. A severe violation of human rights. Of fundamental rights, affecting thousands of people in the European Union and worldwide.

As a transnational and global crime, it demands a united approach. The EU stands firm behind the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, to which the EU and its Member States are parties. 

Trafficking in human beings is not in the first place about people smuggling. It is about exploiting people.

But victims of trafficking are sometimes smuggled. Migrant smugglers are often organised criminals – who also engage in other crimes like trafficking.

And irregular migration increases the risks of trafficking, with traffickers targeting and abusing vulnerable migrants.

It is highly concerning that Belarus, is currently instrumentalising migration on a large scale for political purposes – a practice that amounts to migrant smuggling. The dire situation in Belarus increases the risk of people being trafficked. This is unacceptable. The EU condemns the instrumentalisation and abuse of migrants by the regime in Belarus.  

The fight against trafficking in human beings is a European Union priority. The EU Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings lays down concrete actions to combat this crime.  In a comprehensive way, from prevention and protection of victims, to the prosecution and conviction of perpetrators. The strategy takes into account in particular women and children, as well as trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The EU Strategy focuses on four main areas of action:  Reducing the demand that fosters trafficking in human beings for all forms of exploitation. Breaking the business model of traffickers, online and offline. Protecting, supporting and empowering victims, especially women and children. And promoting international cooperation.

In the European Union, criminals mainly traffic their victims for sexual exploitation. Nearly three quarters of all victims in the EU and 92% of the victims trafficked for sexual exploitation are women and girls. One in four victims of trafficking is a child. These trends are also reflected at the global level.

Demand fosters exploitation of vulnerable people. Taken advantage of by traffickers. Especially in high risk sectors and high risk environments. Bringing huge revenues to organised crime groups and others, who profit from the exploitation of the bodies, services and labour of trafficked victims.

14 billion euro. That’s the estimated criminal revenue of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the European Union. In one single year.

Reducing demand is essential to deprive traffickers of their criminal profits and to make sure crime does not pay.

The EU is committed to address the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings and the specific vulnerabilities of women and children. Early identification of victims is crucial to promptly assist, support and protect victims of trafficking in human beings. And to enable police and prosecution authorities to better investigate and punish traffickers.

It is key to train professionals who are likely to come into contact with victims. And essential to exchange best practices among practitioners to improve cooperation for assistance and support to victims.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, traffickers increasingly moved online for every phase of trafficking. Recruitment and exploitation of victims. Organisation of transport and accommodation. Advertising victims online and reaching out to potential clients. Controlling victims. Communicating between perpetrators and hiding the criminal proceeds.

Children are at particular risk of falling victim to traffickers online. Internet and technology companies have a role to play to reduce the use of online platforms for the recruitment and exploitation of victims.

We must also increase law enforcement and judicial authorities’ capacity to tackle the digital business model of traffickers. That includes detection of signs of exploitation in the growing number of online advertisements. And obtaining crucial digital evidence. Prosecution and conviction of criminals has to improve, online and offline.

A comprehensive approach is clearly needed. In this context, the adoption of the Political Declaration on the implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons is crucial in our joint and multilateral effort to fight this horrible crime.

Editorial Sections: