Is human trafficking a growing threat for our societies?

According to the United Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Labour Office (ILO), there are currently nearly 25 million victims – women, men and children – of this trafficking worldwide for sexual exploitation and forced labour. Human trafficking is a gross violation of human dignity and fundamental rights, and targets vulnerable populations such as migrants and refugees in particular. One of the most concerning trends is the growing portion of children among the victims, which has tripled in 15 years, according to UNODC. This crime reportedly generates more than $150 billion annually worldwide. It is increasingly considered a global security issue as it fuels corruption, irregular migration and terrorism.

With the spread of technology across the globe, intensified by COVID-19 pandemic and the multiplication of online platforms, human trafficking has infiltrated cyber space. The Internet and digital platforms provide traffickers with many tools for recruiting, exploiting and monitoring their victims. Traffickers can now easily organize their transport and their accommodation, deceive victims and contact potential clients online, but also communicate with other traffickers.

What is France doing internationally?

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs commits to developing close cooperation with the regions that are affected by trafficking the most. For example, it is working on a human trafficking support project in countries in the Gulf of Guinea implemented by Expertise France and co-financed by the European Union, and projects in Southeast Europe, in liaison with the European Union, UNODC and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Through its contribution to action being conducted in these two regions of origin of many human trafficking victims, France supports both:

• Capacity building for States to help them combat human trafficking networks (legislative frameworks, role of national coordinators, regional cooperation), and
• Essential action related to prevention, identification, protection and social integration of victims, communication and outreach. France also supports victim defence associations, NGOs and civil society.

To raise public awareness on the fate of trafficking victims across the globe, France actively participates in the Blue Heart Campaign led by UNODC, encouraging both States and individuals to support and get involved in efforts to stop human trafficking. As part of its strong involvement in this campaign, France played a key role in getting ten other countries to join.

During the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, France instigated, with the support of UNODC and the European Union discussion on ways to strengthen action of the Blue Heart Campaign which now has the support of more than 30 of the States doing the most to stop human trafficking.
We wish to step up States’ efforts, political awareness of the urgent need to discuss practical solutions, particularly in the face of the dangers of exploitation using new technology, and to protect minors.

At the same time, the French and Swedish Foreign Ministers have committed to enhancing cooperation between our two countries in order to combat human trafficking for sexual exploitation. This bilateral commitment can be seen in active promotion worldwide of our respective legislation and the abolitionist model for addressing prostitution across the globe, through bilateral, regional and multilateral discussions. We welcome the growing interest sparked by our experience in the protection of victims and their integration, as well as the importance that action must take on demand and prevention, education for effectively and sustainably combatting trafficking, in compliance with the United Nations Protocol on the trafficking in persons.

And nationally?

France has made combating trafficking a full-fledged public policy. After adopting its first national action plan in 2014, France is now implementing its second national action plan against human trafficking for the period 2019-2023. With its 45 measures, this plan strengthens national, European and international action to combat this serious form of crime. It is mobilizing all the ministries concerned, in a comprehensive approach, focusing on action related to prevention, identification and protection of victims, and law enforcement methods to dismantle networks, including with the use of new technology. The national action plan also focuses on key partnerships with civil society and the private sector.

What tangible action is France taking in the context of the war in Ukraine?

The French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, working closely with the European Union and the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, supported the European Union’s implementation of practical and operational prevention measures. It was a Common Anti-Trafficking Plan adopted on 11 May 2022 to provide assistance to refugees from Ukraine, prevent and combat human trafficking to which they could fall prey.
This plan includes measures regarding prevention, information using several means, including new technology and social media, coordination of aid and identification of victims and all people involved in trafficking. Moreover, France supports OSCE action to combat human trafficking in Ukraine.

To conclude, what is the message of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons of 30 July?

The World Day against Trafficking in Persons provides the opportunity to highlight the breath of this scourge and to take action. This Day was created in 2013 when the United Nations General Assembly was holding a high-level meeting to evaluate the Global Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. States wished to call on the international community to take unwavering action on this issue. They adopted the resolution A/RES/68/192 proclaiming 30 July the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This resolution stated that such a day was necessary “for raising awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”