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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP welcomes new EU rules on human trafficking, but is disappointed with provisions for victims

Jean Lambert, the Green MEP for London, has welcomed European Parliament’s adoption of a directive setting out new EU rules on the prevention of human trafficking, but is disappointed it did not include stronger provisions for protection of victims [1].

The goal of the directive [2], which represents the first substantive criminal law measure to be adopted by the EU since entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, is to further approximate national legislation and to improve international law enforcement and judicial co-operation on human trafficking.

Jean, who is a member of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, said: “I welcome this directive [3] as an important step towards tackling human trafficking across the EU.

The nature of human trafficking transcends borders, so cooperation between member states is key. This directive goes some way to achieving this by establishing common definitions of trafficking crimes and appropriate minimum penalties and by including extraterritorial jurisdiction to make it possible to prosecute EU nationals for crimes committed abroad.

“I am also pleased there is no direct reference requiring member states to take legal measures to penalise those who use services (for example dining in a restaurant in which victims of trafficking are working). Besides the intricacy and legal uncertainty of differentiating the ‘what, who and when’ in all of this, such measures actually risk bringing victims of trafficking further outside the reach of the authorities.

“However, I am disappointed that we missed an opportunity to include stronger provisions on victims’ protection, support and rights. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that sees vulnerable people forced into horrifying situations to be exploited for commercial gain. By failing to include a rule on residence permits for victims we have let them down. The responsibility now lies with the Commission to come forward with a proposal to revise the directive so we can offer a truly ambitious approach to cracking down on this heinous crime.”

Note to editor

[1] The directive represents a compromise agreement between the European Parliament and the European Council. The EP and Council negotiated a jointly agreed text between September and November 0201 during six trilogue meetings. This agreement is a ‘first-reading’ deal between the two institutions in the ordinary legislative procedure.

[2] A directive is institutionally stronger than a Framework Decision, in that it is directly applicable by individuals and national courts and the European Commission can sue Member States for failure to implement. In March 2010, the Commission adopted its proposal on the file.