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Chance to advance the rights of trafficked people

Council of Europe: Last chance to advance the rights of trafficked people

Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, La Strada International and International Federation Terre des Hommes call for strengthening of draft treaty

The four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are concerned that many of the key provisions on the draft European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings fail to significantly enhance the assistance and protection of trafficked persons.

The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers will review the draft European Convention against Trafficking, with a view to its adoption, on 23 March 2005. The NGOs are calling on the Committee of Ministers to take this opportunity to strengthen some provisions of the draft.

The organizations note that the current draft Convention builds upon existing international standards of protection for trafficked persons. In particular, it expands the definition of trafficking set out in the Palermo Protocol to expressly include internal (in-state) trafficking and trafficking not necessarily involving organized criminal groups. The full title of this treaty is the Protocol to Prevent Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

But a number of provisions must be amended if the treaty is to meet the stated aim of establishing a comprehensive framework for the protection of the rights of trafficked persons. These include:

• trafficked persons are not detained, charged, or prosecuted for illegal entry or residence and activities which are a direct consequence of their situation as trafficked persons. • all trafficked persons to be given access to necessary medical assistance;

• a sufficient recovery and reflection period, of at least three months, for all trafficked persons, and that the person's presence in the country is regularized and recognized during this time;

• minimum six months-renewable and permanent residence permits are issued to trafficked persons on the basis of the needs and risks of their personal situation or to ensure their presence during proceedings (against the traffickers and/or for compensation);

• provisions for family reunification when a trafficked person is issued residence permits.

The organizations further call on the Committee of Ministers to ensure that the treaty establishes a single independent expert body (Group of experts on action against trafficking in human beings, known as GRETA) to monitor implementation of the Convention by EU and non-EU member states alike. This body should also be mandated to consider collective complaints from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

These recommendations are consistent with those proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2005 and the recommendations of NGOs that work on behalf of trafficked persons. These recommendations have not been included in the current draft of the Convention due to the opposition by the EU member states, and by the European Commission on their behalf.

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