European states fail to protect thousands of people trafficked and forced into crime

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30 September 2014

New report: Trafficking for forced criminal activities and begging in Europe.

European states fail to protect thousands of people trafficked and forced into crime, a new study by the RACE in Europe Project lead by Anti-Slavery International claims.

The report, entitled simply ‘Trafficking for Forced Criminal Activities and Begging in Europe’ analyses the phenomenon of trafficking into crime such as cannabis cultivation, ATM theft, pickpocketing, bag-snatching, counterfeit DVD selling, benefit fraud and forced sham marriage, as well as being forced to beg.

The report explores the situation in the project partner countries (Ireland, the UK, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands) and provides an overview of the rest of Europe.

It exposes the dearth of systematic information and awareness about this type of exploitation amongst the policy makers and justice system actors with very few cases reported in official statistics and many victims misidentified as offenders.

The findings show that the issue is more widespread than previously reported, with potentially thousands of victims being exploited through a variety of criminal activities.

One of the biggest issues connected to these forms of exploitation is that the victims caught in the criminal act by the police end up being prosecuted against, whilst the real criminals remain untouched.

The research found that the issue is more widespread than is currently reported, even in those countries, such as the UK, where this form of trafficking is acknowledged in national statistics.  In countries where this type of trafficking has not been formally identified, NGOs and other frontline professionals are nevertheless identifying victims.

The report concludes that although legislative and law enforcement tools exists at the EU level offered by Eurojust and Europol, they are underused to counter this form of trafficking.

It recommends that the states should fully reflect the EU Directive on Trafficking, and especially non-punishment provision, in national their legislation and action plans to tackle trafficking.

They should also deliver regular training to frontline professionals who may encounter persons trafficked for forced criminality and begging and put in place data collection systems.

It also recommends to make a full use of tools available under Europol and Eurojust such as Joint Investigation Teams and ensure that trafficking victims are protected and their full rights are respected.

Klara Skrivankova, Europe Programme and Advocacy Coordinator at Anti-Slavery International said:

‘The report shows how little attention we pay to people who are trafficked and forced into doing things they never consented to. We need to look for the crime behind the crime to uncover the real criminals.

‘In order to be able to do that, we need policies and laws that will help to deal with this dilemma and give the tools to the police and protection to the victims. No victim should be prosecuted for crimes they have committed under duress while the criminals enjoy freedom.

Download the full report: RACE Europe report (1255.97KB)