By Kayleigh Lewis - 19th October 2012
Depriving someone of their liberty, exploiting them and trading them as commodities for profit are serious human rights violations
Home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström has called on member states to work together with civil society, the private sector and international organisations to eradicate human trafficking.
The commissioner was speaking at the sixth annual EU anti-trafficking day organised jointly by the commission and the Cyprus EU council presidency, on Thursday.
Malmström said that, "Trafficking in human beings cannot be tolerated in any form, be it in Europe or anywhere else in the world.
"Depriving someone of their liberty, exploiting them and trading them as commodities for profit are serious human rights violations.
The Swedish official said the EU's new legislation on trafficking in human beings was "ambitious" and urged member states to "translate the legislation into reality".
"The focus must now be on implementation, we need to translate the legislation into reality. We have an obligation, moral as well as legal, to act."
Eleni Mavrou, minister of interior of the Republic of Cyprus, also attended the conference, speaking alongside European anti-trafficking coordinator Myria Vassiliadou.
Mavrou said that member states and civil society should work "hand in hand" and that "cooperation and coordination are the core elements for the present and the future for tackling trafficking in human beings".
"Today's conference is providing us with the opportunity to exchange views on how to improve ourselves in the fight against trafficking in human beings, how to fight, strengthen cooperation, protection of victims, prevention and prosecution of criminals with our focus turned to the future"
"The fact is that despite all our efforts, this crime remains one of the fastest growing forms of organised crime, maintained and developed by exploiting poverty, social inequality and the lack of real prospects in the countries of origin of victims"
"We firmly believe that we have now have, in our hand, the logistical and practical tools to effectively tackle this crime."
She continued, "What is now necessary is to remain alert, focused and to implement, without excuses, these tools in our day to day work.
"Our ultimate goal is to address the root causes of this crime, to protect those who need our help and to fight those who trade human lives.
"We believe that our Europe can and should be a better world. It should be a leader on the road to progress, prosperity, stability and peace."
Vassiliadou agreed with the minister's comments and shed some light on the extent of the problem in the EU.
"Up to 880,000 people are estimated by the international labour organisation to be trafficked into the European Union.
"According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, 93 per cent of Europeans agree that EU member states should cooperate to tackle trafficking in human beings.
She said that the member states now have six months to implement the new directive, calling on national governments to ratify the existing international implements, notably the UN protocol and the convention of the Council of Europe on trafficking human beings.
"[Member states must] transpose the new European Union legislation on trafficking in human beings in a timely manner and implement concrete and practical measures identified in the new EU strategy in order to effectively address the devastating crime."
"We can only do this together with international organisations, third countries, civil society organisations, the private sector and everyone else involved in addressing trafficking," she added.