Trafficking in human beings: protect women and children and focus on sexual exploitation, say MEP 

Press Releases 
  • Asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants, especially women and unaccompanied minors, are the most vulnerable 
  • Criminalise demand and use of victims' sexual services 
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated root causes of trafficking in human beings 

On Wednesday, MEPs proposed a series of measures aiming at preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and supporting, assisting and protecting its victims.

In an own initiative report adopted with 80 votes to 10 and 10 abstentions, MEPs of the Civil Liberties and Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committees call for a comprehensive, gender and victim-centered approach to trafficking, underlining the need for comparable and detailed data around its scale and trends in the EU.

Trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation remains the most prevalent and reported form of trafficking in the EU. It disproportionately affects women and girls and reflects how trafficking for sexual exploitation is rooted in gender inequalities. The report calls on the Commission to amend the anti-trafficking directive to ensure that member states explicitly criminalise the “knowing use of services” provided by victims of trafficking.

Asylum and migration

Asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants, especially women and unaccompanied minors, are vulnerable to trafficking. The text highlights the very low number of registered victims in international protection procedures and calls on the national authorities to ensure that anti-trafficking and asylum procedures are interconnected.

Further, the non-legislative resolution:

  • Notes that children constitute nearly a quarter of all victims, calling on Member states to ensure strong child protection measures;
  • Underlines the use of internet, social media and digital technologies to recruit victims of trafficking and calls on the Commission to address the use of online technologies in both the proliferation and the prevention of THB;
  • Calls on the Commission to publish a specific and dedicated EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings without further delay;
  • Warns that the situation of trafficked victims has worsened since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and that support services have encountered difficulties to assist them.


Co-rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said: "Ten years after the adoption of the anti-trafficking directive, we call on the Commission to revise it to improve the measures for the prevention and prosecution of all forms of trafficking and to explicitly criminalise the use of all services provided by victims of trafficking. The European Parliament urges EU countries to guarantee the identification of potential victims of trafficking in the context of migration flows and facilitate their access to the asylum procedures".

“The crime of trafficking is based on the abuse of the vulnerability of victims, mostly women and girls, sexually exploited in Europe. Demand for sexual services drives trafficking. We therefore demand a reform of the 2011 directive in order for member states to criminalise the use of those services, discouraging demand and preventing exploitation”, added co-rapporteur Maria Soraya Rodriguez Ramos (Renew, ES).

Next steps

Parliament as a whole will vote on the non-legislative resolution during the next plenary session (8-11 February).


The Civil Liberties and Gender Equality committees held a joint public hearing in October 2020 with institutional and civil society stakeholders on trafficking in human beings. The Commission reports regularly on the progress made in the fight against trafficking (reports available for 2016, 2018 and 2020). Trafficking in human beings is addressed both in the framework of the EU's Security Union Strategy and the proposed Pact on Migration and Asylum.