Turning a blind eye: the human cost of trafficking

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Peace, Security & Defence

Human traffickers run sophisticated operations. Often bypassing border officials, national and local police – and on occasion the judiciary – human trafficking is intimately intertwined with migration. Reports have brought to light how women are taken by trafficking networks during their journey and face widespread sexual exploitation. And the danger does not end at the border – even after arriving at reception centres, shortages of police and guardians for unaccompanied children create hotspots for exploitation and smuggling.

There isn’t a major city in Europe that doesn’t benefit from human trafficking of women and girls. Furthermore, the proceeds of trafficking underpin illegal arms, drugs and terrorism. This is a sinister and dirty equation, and yet we in Europe largely turn a blind eye to it. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, recently released its annual risk analysis, claiming to provide a comprehensive picture of the European Union’s migratory situation. Yet, missing from the picture – human trafficking and its significant impact on women and girls. As the European Commission looks towards its 2021-2025 Action Plan against migrant smuggling, it will be vital to address protections for those on the move and the relationship between human trafficking and organised crime.

This Policy Insight debate will broach the realities of migrant smuggling and address the steps that must be taken to ensure that people on the move can undertake safe and legal journeys.

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