Renew Europe MEPs have today issued a 'wake-up call' that the COVID19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking, especially women, children and those in precarious situations, forcing many shelters to close or suspend their services as a result of reported infections. This is one of the key findings of a report set to be adopted by the European Parliament on the implementation of EU anti – trafficking legislation.
The report echoes Europol's warning that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could further increase the numbers of victims and decrease the likelihood of traffickers being detected by law enforcement. MEPs call on the European Commission to carry out a deeper analysis of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on potential victims, in order to create specific measures to tackle the scourge. They call on the EU Member States to ensure accessible, free legal assistance and representation, employment services, psychological and medical support for victims of trafficking, especially in situations of crisis and emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming months, the Commission will publish their new strategy on trafficking in human beings. Renew Europe expect them to put forward bold and ambitious proposals.
MEP María Soraya Rodriguez Ramos, rapporteur for report in the Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s rights, says:
“Trafficking in human beings violates life, physical and mental integrity, sexual freedom and dignity. It is based on the abuse of the vulnerability of victims, who are mostly women and girls, sexually exploited in Europe. Today with this implementation report we demand a holistic, human rights based approach to the fight and prevention of trafficking, and call on the Commission to revise the directive so that Member States explicitly criminalise the knowing use of services provided by victims.”
MEP Hilde Vautmans, shadow for the report in the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, adds:
"Too many criminals are making money from exploiting women and children within our borders. This must end. We urgently need to bring down the staggering numbers of victims of human trafficking. This report is a wake-up call to the European Commission and the Member States to step up our action and ensure a better implementation of the directive."