A Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg | Photo: EPA/Patrick Seeger
A Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg | Photo: EPA/Patrick Seeger

The Council of Europe on Thursday urged member states to step up protection for the victims of human trafficking; underscoring that migrant flows in the Mediterranean are an example of how the lack of access to Europe fails to protect victims of human traffickers.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said Thursday September 12, in a statement published online, that "actions taken by member states to combat smuggling and prevent irregular migration may be making it more difficult to fight human trafficking and to identify and protect its victims." Mijatovic continued: "Therefore, improving protection against human trafficking remains crucial. Now is the time to ensure that the often-pronounced commitments are delivered specifically for people on the move." 

EU policy of closed doors 'failing victims'

Whilst discussing the management of migrant flows in the Mediterranean, the commissioner wrote that the "lack of access to Europe is failing victims of trafficking." She asked member states to carefully assess how migration policies impact the prevention of human trafficking, the identification of victims, and their access to assistance. 

Mijatovic also called for an increase in legal, safe channels for migrants to access Europe so as to prevent human trafficking. 

Border management on the basis of human rights 

"The current situation at the external borders of Europe is particularly complex, with different interests overlapping and competing," Mijatovic noted.

Whilst each of these goals is legitimate, the protection of those on the move is too often neglected in their implementation, she explained. "A human rights-based approach to border management, which provides protection to (potential) victims of trafficking, will depend, to a large extent, on constructive co-operation and sharing responsibility, both between Council of Europe member states themselves, and with non-European countries of origin and transit." 

The Commissioner concluded: "An approach that seeks to prevent human trafficking cannot ignore the fact that the increasing closing of safe and legal routes to Europe, including refugee resettlement and family reunification, is itself providing the ground on which this abhorrent practice can flourish."

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