29 June 2010 - Spain is the first European country to join the Blue Heart Campaign, just as a new UNODC report shows that trafficking in persons is one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in Europe. According to the report, criminal groups are making around €2.5 billion per year through sexual exploitation and forced labour.
UNODC presented its report entitled Trafficking in Persons to Europe for Sexual Exploitation today at a launch attended by UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, Spanish Minister of Equality Bibiana Aído, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador against human trafficking Mira Sorvino, Spanish actress Belén Rueda and Mexican human rights journalist and author Lydia Cacho.
The Blue Heart Campaign aims to raise awareness about human trafficking among decision makers, civil society, the media and the general public in order to garner support for combating this crime.
"Europeans believe that slavery was abolished centuries ago. But look around - slaves are in our midst. We must do more to reduce demand for slave-made products and exploitation," said Mr. Costa. He urged all Europeans to join the Blue Heart Campaign.
At any one time, over 140,000 victims are trapped in this vicious cycle of violence, abuse and degradation across Europe. There is no clear sign that the overall number of victims is decreasing. As many as 70,000 additional victims are exploited in Europe every year.
Eighty four per cent of the victims in Europe are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Up to one in every seven sex workers in Europe could be enslaved into prostitution through trafficking. Victims are generally duped, misled or forced into the service of criminal businesses that subdue and coerce their victims, trapping them in a "bubble" of suppression and abuse from which it is difficult to escape.
The vast majority of victims are young women. They are subjected to violence, inlcuding rape, or the threat of violence, are drugged, imprisoned and blackmailed, have debt imposed on them, have their passport confiscated and are falsely promised employment.
In Europe, over half of the victims come from the Balkans (32 per cent) and countries of the former Soviet Union (19 per cent). Thirteen per cent come from South America, 7 per cent from Central Europe, 5 per cent from Africa and 3 per cent from East Asia. Although victims from Eastern Europe tend to be found throughout Europe, those from South America tend to be concentrated in several European countries. East Asian victims have also been increasingly found in many European countries and in some countries are the top group being exploited.
In Europe, most convicted traffickers are male. However, women offenders are also over-represented when compared to their role in other crimes. Some gangs consider women to be more effective in entrapping victims, and the "promotion" of victims to the role of recruiter or handler is one way to escape the trafficking trap. These women act as a buffer between members of organized criminal gangs and law enforcement officers and often prevent trafficking networks from being shut down. And often victims and traffickers are of the same nationality.
Compared to the number of victims, relatively few people have been prosecuted for human trafficking in Western Europe.