Vitorino vows to tackle human trafficking

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Series Details Vol.7, No.42, 15.11.01, p9
Publication Date 15/11/2001
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Date: 15/11/01

By Martin Banks

COMMISSIONER António Vitorino has pledged to stamp out the 'degrading' trade in women and children from eastern Europe and Africa into EU member states. The justice and home affairs chief says the EU will step up its efforts to tackle the scandal following disturbing new revelations about Europe-wide trafficking in human beings. "This is a degrading violation of human rights and dignity," he said. "The Commission is aware of this and will tackle it." Vitorino's comments come after Italian MEP Christiana Muscardini claimed that "thousands" of women are arriving in Italy every day from Moldova and Ukraine to work as prostitutes.

In some cases the women are "forced to become pregnant", she said, and are obliged to give up their babies for adoption. "The beneficiaries of the trafficking are Italian families who can afford it. The turnover of this trafficking in human beings is estimated at €4.13 billion a year. The fact that the law on international adoptions is highly restrictive and often makes prospective adoptive parents wait a very long time is no justification for this trade." She added: "It is extremely serious and a source of shame for the West."

In a separate development, an investigation by the British Broadcasting Corporation has revealed that African children are being sold for as little as £15 (25 euro) in the UK and other European countries.

The children are promised an education and a better life but the dream ends soon after they get off the plane: they are put to work by the families who have bought them and are treated like slaves.

The investigation followed the brutal death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was taken to Britain by her aunt from the Ivory Coast capital, Abidjan. She was abused and tortured for months. After her death, doctors found 128 injuries on her body.

Vitorino said the EU was tackling the trafficking problem on three fronts: prevention, training of law enforcement officers and protection of victims.

He said: "The EU has developed a comprehensive policy to fight against human trafficking in general and in women and children in particular."

He said the EU's police agency Europol was working with Interpol to combat it and the Commission would be proposing new laws on temporary residence permits for trafficking victims who are prepared to give evidence against their exploiters.

Italy had already taken a lead among member states by including provisions in new immigration law for the protection of victims, whether or not they are prepared to cooperate in investigations, said Vitorino.

Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner António Vitorino has pledged to stamp out the 'degrading' trade in women and children from eastern Europe and Africa into EU Member States.

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