WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Experts say that more than 60 percent of people trafficked for sex or forced labor within the European Union are EU citizens.
EU statistics — the bloc's first on human trafficking — for the years 2008-2010 show that most victims come from Romania and Bulgaria, although trafficking from outside the EU is on the rise, with most victims coming from Nigeria.
EU and police experts from across Europe said during the "Putting Victims First" conference that opened in Warsaw on Tuesday that trafficking is on the rise. They called it "modern-day slavery" to which Europe should respond with stronger legislation that would prosecute traffickers and a better effort to recognize victims and guarantee their rights to protection and compensation.
A treaty that took effect in 2008 in the EU needs to be stepped up to make law enforcement officers as well as ordinary citizens more responsive to the problem, the experts said, while NGOs working with the victims should be given more funds.
In the three years covered, more than 7,000 women and girls and more than 2,000 men and boys from within the EU were identified or presumed as victims, compared with more than 1,200 females and 94 males from Africa.
Bernd Hemingway of the International Organization for Migration said the trafficking trends seem to be changing. "A few years ago we were talking mainly about trafficking for sexual exploitation, nowadays we have more and more trafficking for labor," Hemingway said.
In 2012, some 48 percent of identified cases were of labor trafficking while 21 percent involved sex trafficking, which was significantly lower than in the previous year, he said. Experts said that prejudice and turning a blind eye to exploitation are great obstacles to recognizing victims, and pointed to the case of a 10-year-old Pakistani girl trafficked into Britain where she was kept as a virtual sex and labor slave. The man who trafficked her was sentenced to 13 years in prison last month.