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MEPs approve EU trafficking law: no reason for UK to stay out

December 14, 2010 12:00 PM

The European Parliament has approved a new European directive to combat human trafficking. Through more effective EU cooperation and a wider definition of trafficking it aims to hit the cross-border criminal networks guilty of buying, selling and exploiting other people.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked into or within the EU every year, mostly exploited for prostitution but also as slave labour and for begging and stealing human organs.

Since EU governments have also already given the legislation their approval it will now become EU law. The UK, which decided not to 'opt in' to this directive when it was first proposed, now has a second chance to decide to participate.

Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford said:

"This new EU-wide push to fight the illegal sex trade and modern-day slavery and put its perpetrators into jail is vital. Criminals who dehumanise vulnerable people and exploit them for profit must be stopped."

"The law against this pernicious crime is toughened up, for instance a new maximum sentence of 10 years instead of 8, much better care for child victims and an EU anti-trafficking coordinator. Trafficking now covers selling a person as a beggar or pickpocket, or for adoption, forced marriage or harvesting of organs for transplant."

"MEPs have also insisted that victims receive protection, maximising the chance that they will help with prosecutions of the gangsters. If they are immediately deported as illegal immigrants or punished for involuntary offences, such prosecutions are undermined."

"UK concerns about the text have been met and it meets the test in the coalition agreement. Cross-border cooperation is essential to combat people-trafficking and the UK should be leading the way in the international effort to stamp it out."

Notes to Editors

1. The UK only participates in EU justice & home affairs legislation when it chooses to, and there are 2 opportunities for the UK to 'opt in' on any measure. The UK government announced in June that it would not opt in at the beginning of negotiations to this new EU anti-trafficking law but would wait to see how the final text negotiated between MEPs and the other EU governments turned out before deciding whether to participate in the final version.

2. Regarding EU justice & home affairs, the UK coalition government agreement says: 'We will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country's security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system.'