For information only - not an official document

29 June 2010

People for Sale in Europe

Spain joins Blue Heart Campaign against human trafficking

VIENNA, 29 June (UN Information Service) - A report issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that trafficking in persons is one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in Europe. Criminal groups in Europe are making around €2.5 billion per year through sexual exploitation and forced labour.

UNODC presented its report Trafficking in persons to Europe for sexual exploitation on 29 June during the Spanish EU Presidency launch of the United Nations Blue Heart Campaign against human trafficking by UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, the Spanish Minister of Equality Bibiana Aido, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador against human trafficking Mira Sorvino, Spanish actress Belen Rueda and Mexican human rights journalist and author Lydia Cacho.

The Blue Heart Campaign aims to raise awareness about human trafficking amongst decision-makers, civil society, the media and the general public in order to garner support for combating this 21st Century human rights crime. Spain is the first country in Europe to join the Blue Heart Campaign against human trafficking.

"Europeans believe that slavery was abolished centuries ago. But look around - slaves are in our midst. We must do more to reduce demand for slave-made products and exploitation," said Mr. Costa. He urged all Europeans to join the Blue Heart campaign.

At any one time, over 140,000 victims are trapped in this vicious cycle of violence, abuse and degradation across Europe with no clear sign of the overall number of victims decreasing. There is a high turnover of 50 per cent of trafficking victims in Europe with up to 70,000 additional victims being exploited every year.

Eighty four per cent of the victims in Europe are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Up to one of every seven sex workers in Europe could be enslaved into prostitution through trafficking. Victims are generally duped, mislead or forced into the service of criminal businesses which subdue and coerce their victims trapping them in a "bubble" of suppression and abuse which is difficult to escape.

The vast majority of victims are generally young women who are subjected to rape, violence or the threat of violence, drugged, imprisoned, have debt imposed on them, have their passport confiscated, blackmailed, subjected to false promises of employment or become victims of feigned love.

In Europe over half of the victims come from the Balkans (32 per cent) and the former Soviet Union (19 per cent), with 13 per cent originating in South America, seven per cent in Central Europe, five per cent in Africa and three per cent in East Asia. Although victims from Eastern Europe tend to be found throughout Europe, victims from South America tend to be concentrated in several European countries. East Asian victims have also been increasingly detected in many European countries and in some countries are the top group being exploited.

In Europe most convicted traffickers are male. However, women offenders are also over-represented when compared to their role in other crimes. Some gangs consider women to be more effective to front for gangs in order to entrap victims. "Promotion" to a recruiter or handler is one way for female victims to escape the trafficking trap themselves. These "middle-people" often act as a convenient obstacle for the organized criminals between themselves and law enforcement, hindering the effective shutting-down of trafficking networks. There is also a strong correlation between the nationality of trafficked victims and their recruiters, the victim's own fellow nationals often being responsible for selling them out.

Prosecutions for human trafficking in Western Europe still remain relatively low compared to the number of victims with convictions still only numbering in the hundreds.

For more on the Blue Heart Campaign, visit

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For further information contact:

Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter, UNODC
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629