Last night, the European Parliament and the Council agreed on revised rules on preventing and combating human trafficking.

The agreement, which still needs to be formally approved, updates the current law to include provisions on forced marriage, illegal adoption, exploitation of surrogacy and better support for victims.

The Left negotiators, Malin Björk (Vänsterpartiet, Sweden) and María Eugenía Rodriguez Palop (Podemos, Spain), fought to ensure:

  • Improved protection for victims of trafficking who are also seeking international protection;
  • Criminalisation of services provided by a victim of trafficking, where the user knowingly exploits the victim;
  • Penalties for companies convicted of trafficking, including excluding them from tendering processes and from reimbursement for aid or subsidies;
  • Option for prosecutors to decide whether or not to prosecute victims for criminal acts they were coerced into committing; and
  • Non-consensual sharing of sexual images or videos can now be considered an aggravating circumstance in sentencing.

María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop said: “As Parliament, we had an ambitious position and the Council has shown itself open to dialogue, with the initial push of the Spanish Presidency. We all had to give in, but the result is good. We have introduced, amongst others, the exploitation of surrogacy, improved prevention, strengthened investigation and prosecutions as well as coordination and monitoring, and included measures to better protect, assist and support all victims. Today we are a little closer to ending this.”

Malin Björk continued: “I’m happy with this agreement. It strengthens the protection of victims of trafficking, with a special focus on the most vulnerable victims including persons in need of international protection, women and girls and children. It requires that member states step up their response to trafficking in human beings including mandating national anti-trafficking coordinators. We have agreed to tackle exploitation of trafficking victims in its most obvious forms. Even though I would have liked to have a more extensive ban on exploitation including sexual exploitation, this is already an improvement on current legislation. It can never be okay to take advantage of trafficking victims.”

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