(CN) – The European Commission has adopted a 40-point plan to end human trafficking in the next five years, calling the brutal practice “the slavery of our times.”
Dubbed the “EU Strategy Towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings,” the commission’s policy is a set of measures that will be implemented through 2016. Measures include the formation of national law-enforcement units specializing in human trafficking and the creation of European investigation teams involving Europol and Eurojust to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases.
“Unfortunately slavery hasn’t yet been left to the history books,” Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said in a statement. “It is appalling to see that in our times human beings are still being put up for sale and being trafficked into forced labor or prostitution. Ensuring that victims can get support and bringing traffickers to justice is at the heart of our actions. We are far from there yet, but we can have only one aim: to eradicate trafficking in human beings.”
Other components of the plan offer concrete help to victims of human trafficking, such as the clear communication of their rights to assistance, health care, residency and work under EU and national law. The commission hopes to better identify, protect and assist victims, and will work with the business community to stop labor-sector exploitation.
A new law on human trafficking, which will be fully implemented across the European Union by 2013, laid the strategy groundwork.
To make the plan an official directive, it must pass discussions in the European Parliament and EU Council.
Citing estimates from the International Labor Organization, the commission says there are nearly 21 million victims of forced labor worldwide. A quarter of the victims are children. Europol believes children are also being traded as commodities with $25,000 price tags, the commission says.
Women are the main victims of human trafficking, although the commission said that men and boys accounted for 21 percent of the victims in EU trafficking cases between 2008 and 2010.
The EU’s executive body says it took action because the number of prosecutions for human trafficking fell by nearly 17 percent during the same period.