Human trafficking: MEPs want strong focus on victims’ rights

5 October 2023

New crimes at EU level would include forced marriage, illegal adoption and surrogacy for reproductive exploitation

Broader scope for law enforcement to dismantle criminal organisations

Penalties for companies convicted for trafficking

Ensuring victims are not prosecuted for criminal acts they were coerced into committing

On Thursday, the committees on Women’s Rights and Civil Liberties adopted a draft position on revised rules to combat human trafficking and to help its victims.

To combat human trafficking, which affects at least 7000 victims in Europe each year, new proposals would give EU law enforcement agencies new tools to dismantle criminal organisations by adding new categories of crimes, including forced marriage and illegal adoption, into the existing EU framework, and improve reporting and statistics to create a better understanding of trafficking crimes. Additionally, MEPs want to include surrogacy for the purposes of reproductive exploitation and the exploitation of children in residential institutions in the scope of the law.

The draft European Parliament position on the revision of the rules was adopted on Thursday by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, with 69 votes in favour, 0 against, and 22 abstaining. Negotiations with the Council were authorised with 86 votes in favour, 0 against, and 4 abstaining.

MEPs want a number of changes to the Commission proposal to ensure the more effective protection of victims. They want to:

- make sure that victims of trafficking who are also in need of international protection receive appropriate support and protection, and that their right to asylum is respected ;

- criminalise the use of services provided by a victim of an offence concerning trafficking in human beings;

- introduce penalties for companies convicted of trafficking, including excluding them from tendering processes and from reimbursement for public aid or subsidies;

- ensure that victims are not prosecuted for criminal acts they were coerced into committing, and that they receive support regardless of whether they cooperate in investigations or not ;

- ensure support to victims using a gender-, disability- and child-sensitive approach and based on an intersectional approach;

- guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities and appropriate support to unaccompanied children;

- include anti-trafficking measures in emergency response plans when natural disasters, health emergencies or migratory crises occur.


Co-rapporteur for the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee Eugenia Rodríguez Palop (the Left, Spain) said: “The current directive has been essential in the fight against human trafficking. Nevertheless, after 12 years, there are challenges and gaps that we need to urgently address so as not to let down victims. MEPs want to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of the crime, improve the EU’s institutional framework, collect and harmonise data, and focus on victim-centred measures.”

Co-rapporteur for the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee Malin Björk (the Left, Sweden) added: “Trafficking of human beings does not belong in the 21st century. Most of the victims in Europe are women and girls who are being bought and sold to be abused in Europe’s prostitution industry. Parliament today took a powerful stance against this crime by calling for the criminalisation of the purchase of sex from victims of trafficking, and for strengthening the rights and support for victims. It is a milestone in the fight against trafficking. I hope now to secure support for this strong legislation from member states.”

Next steps

Once the draft position has been endorsed by the full house, negotiations with the Council on the final form of the law can begin.




Natalie Kate KONTOULIS

Press Officer



Press Officer