Human trafficking in Europe


The trafficking in human beings involves transversely the whole European territory. Victims come both from East European Countries and non-European ones (such as Nigeria, South American Countries or Eastern Asia). The estimations show that the largest part of the victims are subjected to trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation (62% in 2010), while the rest is divided between labour (25%), begging, domestic slavery and other forms of slavery.
The report on human trafficking presented by the European Commission in April 2013 underlines that, while the number of victims trafficked to or within Europe increased by 18% between 2008 and 2010, the number of the sentences and therefore of the traffickers’ arrests decreased by nearly 13%.

The gender issue still proves itself to be determinant: between 2008 and 2010, the number of trafficked women and girls was three times higher than the number of trafficked men. The percentage distribution of victims by gender and age in the last three-years was, respectively: women 68%, men 17%, girls 12% and boys 3%.

The largest part of the identified or alleged victims within the time interval 2008-2010 come from EU member states (61%), followed by African (14%), Asian (6%) and Latino-American victims (5%).

Mainly, victims from Eastern Europe are Rumanian or Bulgarian, while

other victims from the rest of the World mostly come from Nigeria and China.

At the macro-level, the European Union and the Council of Europe are the organizations in charge of the fight against trafficking in human beings. In addition to the Directive 2011/36/UE, the 19th of June 2012, the European Commission adopted the Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings for 2012-2016. It is composed by a number of actions divided in five areas of priority interventions:

  • Identifying, protecting and assisting victims of trafficking;
  • Stepping up the prevention of trafficking in human beings;
  • Increased prosecution of traffickers;
  • Enhance coordination and cooperation among key actors and policy coherence;
  • Increased knowledge of and effective response to emerging concerns related to all forms of trafficking in human beings.

Since the social political context has changed significantly, following the adoption of the Directive and the Strategy, the Commission proposes a number of priority actions to intensify the EU’s efforts to prevent trafficking in human beings:

  • block the criminal economic model and break the mechanism of trafficking;
  • give victims better access to their rights and allow them to be implemented;
  • stimulate a coordinated and consolidated response, both inside and outside Europe.

The Council of Europe adopted the Warsaw Convention in 2005, an international advanced tool for the protection of victims of trafficking. This tool has three main objectives, that include: the implementation of effective measures to prevent the phenomenon, the protection of the rights of victims and the promotion of international cooperation within the fight against criminal networks..



5,846 cases of “registered victims” (both established and presumed) of trafficking in the EU. Trafficking for sexual exploitation confirms the most common case of trafficking (67%), followed by labor exploitation (21%). The remaining 12% refers to victims of trafficking for other forms of exploitation. For over three quarters of the cases, the victims were female (76%). 15% of registered victims were minor. 65% were EU citizens, the top 5 countries are: Romania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland. The first 5 non-EU countries are: Nigeria, China, Albania, Vietnam and Morocco.

Commissione Europea Relazione Tratta 2016

OSCE – In 2003 the OSCE Ministerial Council adopted the OSCE Action Pina for combating trafficking in human beings and established the OSCE Anti-Trafficking Mechanism. The OSCE action plan creates a direct link between the political commitments made by participating States since 1975 and the national recommendations in the fields of::

  • PREVENTION of trafficking in human beings;
  • PROTECTION and assistance;
  • investigation, law enforcement and CRIMINAL PROSECUTION.