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Trafficking: A Sneaky Challenge in Europe Too

by Anna Triandafyllidou
Director Cultural Pluralism, Global Governance Programme

9 July 2015


New forms of slavery are shockingly proliferating also in democratic Europe.

If one reads the recently launched report on Severe Labour Exploitation in the EU(2 June 2015), by the Fundamental Rights Agency,  one should feel indignant as, despite little awareness, the phenomenon is sadly widespread.

Until a few years ago it was believed that trafficking was mainly related to sex work and that slave like labour had been eradicated in Europe. Today there is a growing awareness that unfortunately this is not the case. Trafficking in human beings involves several hundreds of thousands of people in the EU every year, and takes place in a whole range of sectors which include agriculture, manufacturing (the garment industry in particular), and, rather surprisingly, domestic work. While for many years the EU alongside the UN had put emphasis on information campaigns and on seeking to combat trafficking in the source countries, today emphasis is paid to the role of demand in the development of the trafficking business.

Thus, not only demand for sex workers but also demand for cheap goods, such as crops of small fruits and small vegetables that require intensive and cheap labour, demand for cheap fashion, and demand for carers and cleaners that do everything at virtually no cost.

The phenomenon of trafficking in human beings and of slave like labour is quite complex and involves high economic profits, nourishing itself with a lack of a fundamental sense of ethics. There is a need to better understand what drives the users or customers to demand for trafficked persons' services, and what makes the employers or end users indifferent or indeed blind to the fact that the person that provides a service is working in slave like conditions, with no viable alternative and has been deceived and forced into this situation.

Demand is what needs to be addressed. Consumers and employers must be educated to refuse goods and services produced by people that have been trafficked. The time is now for policymakers and civil society to join forces, put the right policies in place, and end trafficking of human beings.


Learn more about trafficking for labour exploitation in domestic work: DemandAT, domestic work case study 

Learn more about severe labour exploitation in agricultural and domestic work in Italy: TRAFFICKO


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