France and the fight against human trafficking
According to the United Nations and the Council of Europe, human trafficking is one of the most lucrative form of trafficking in the world. Trafficking is believed to generate up to 150 billion dollars in annual profits. It thus represents a comprehensive security issue, fuelling corruption, irregular migration and terrorism.
An estimated 25 million people are recruited and exploited around the world each year, mostly women and children. The proportion of children who are victims of trafficking has tripled in 15 years according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Several forms of exploitation come under human trafficking: sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic slavery, organ trafficking and forced crime or begging.
As it is one of the most serious forms of human rights violations, this issue as part of the fight against transnational organized crime, is a genuine concern for the international community and for France in particular.
The fight against human trafficking is one of France’s priorities in terms of protecting and promoting human rights and fighting organized crime.
Human trafficking is a transnational threat. France must work at national, European and UN level to effectively combat this scourge.
At national level
France has made combating this scourge a fully-fledged public policy. An Interministerial Mission for the Protection of Women against Violence and the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings (MIPROF) was created in January 2013 with the aim of providing greater protection to trafficking victims.
Having adopted the first national action plan in 2014, France is now working to implement the second national action plan against human trafficking for the 2019-2022 period.
With 45 measures, this plan reiterates the French government’s commitment to stepping up the fight against human trafficking. The main trends of the plan aim to:
- Add the issue of human trafficking to the public debate and raise awareness among young people of the risks of exploitation;
- Set out a strategy to identify trafficking victims so that they are effectively protected and cared for;
- Guarantee unconditional protection to minors who are victims of trafficking; speed up the dismantling of criminal networks;
- Coordinate public action at national and local level and finally further strengthen international cooperation.
- France is currently drawing up a third national action plan against human trafficking.
At international level
• In UN forums
France is working to universalize and effectively implement the supplementary Protocolof the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC, known as the “Palermo Convention”) which aims to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. This protocol is the only universal legally-binding instrument on combatting human trafficking. It requests States to make trafficking a crime, contains provisions on prevention and victim protection, and sets out international cooperation mechanisms on prosecution and suppression.
France is working to ensure that the States Parties to the supplementary Protocol to the Convention to combat human trafficking fully and effectively implement the mechanism for review. This mechanism was set up in October 2020, at the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Palermo Convention.
- A Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons (Resolution 64/293) was adopted in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. This “soft law” instrument supplements and promotes the effective implementation of the Additional Protocol, by establishing a Trust Fund to assist victims.
In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly held a high-level meeting to assess this Global Plan of Action. It was on that occasion that the Member States announced 30 July as the “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons”.
In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council, under its Spanish Presidency and with the support of France, unanimously adopted a historic resolution (resolution 2331) which clearly establishes the link between human trafficking, sexual violence and terrorism as a threat to international peace and security.
In 2004, France supported the creation of two special rapporteur mandates at the Human Rights Council (HRC):
- Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (created in 2004 and renewed for three years in 2020)
- Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery (created in 2007 and renewed for 3 years in 2020).
At the United Nations General Assembly, France supports the resolutions on improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons (see resolution A/RES/76/186) and on trafficking in women and girls (see resolutionA/RES/75/158).
France is also party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The fight against human trafficking is one of France’s priorities via the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Each year, France thus contributes to the work of the Office as regards fighting trafficking.
Read the 2020 UNDOC report.
France is the fifth-largest contributor to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons (UNVTF), which supports assistance to and protection of victims on the ground, notably through grants to specialized associations.
France also launched an appeal to strengthen international cooperation to fight this scourge at the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (held in Kyoto in March 2021) which set outs the international community’s roadmap to fight transnational organized crime for the next five years.
France wanted to raise public awareness about the fate of trafficking victims around the world, and in 2019 joined[the “Blue Heart” campaign->https://www.unodc.org/blueheart/en/index.html] launched by the UNODC. This campaign encourages both States and individuals to get involved and support the fight against human trafficking by focusing on supporting victims. Furthermore, France played a leading role in encouraging 10 other countries to join this initiative.
- At the Council of Europe
In 2008, France also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings(known as the Warsaw Convention) which places the victim at the heart of the combat mechanism. To ensure this Convention was properly implemented, the Council of Europe created a Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), which was responsible for ensuring it was correctly applied. France is actively cooperating with GRETA and in February 2021, welcomed it during an assessment mission which enabled it to demonstrate its exemplary model.
- Within the European Union
Human trafficking was the subject of a 2011 directive, which France transposed into its domestic legislation as well as a 2012-2016 strategy implemented by the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. It is also one of the priorities of the European Agenda on Migration of May 2015, as part of the fight against criminal smuggling networks. Furthermore, human trafficking is one of the 13 priorities set out by the EU policy cycle to tackle organised and serious international crime (2018-2022), the aim of which is to strengthen the work of the European Union in that area.
- At the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
France is also working to fight human trafficking within the OSCE, including at annual conferences of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons.
In 2021, during an official visit, it welcomed Valiant Richey, the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.
• The French-Swedish initiative to combat human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation
Since 2019, the French and Swedish foreign ministers have been committed to strengthening cooperation between our two countries in order to fight human trafficking for sexual exploitation. This bilateral commitment is reflected in:
- active promotion worldwide of our respective legislation and the abolitionist model for addressing prostitution,
- bilateral and regional contacts, or within a multilateral framework.
Under this initiative, an awards ceremony was organized by the Swedish Embassy in Paris in June 2022 to honour the French association Agir contre la prostitution des enfants [Action against child prostitution] (ACPE) , which fights against the sexual exploitation of minors. This event demonstrates France and Sweden’s constant commitment to fighting human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and particularly that of minors.
The Ministry also works hard to develop close cooperation with the regions most affected by the phenomenon, particularly in Africa within the assistance project for the fight against trafficking in persons in the Gulf of Guinea countries implemented by Expertise France and co-financed with the EU, but also in South-East Europe in liaison with the EU, the UNODC and the OSCE. Through its contribution to action conducted in these two regions of origin of many trafficking victims, France supports both capacity building for States to help them combat trafficking networks (legislative frameworks, role of national coordinators, regional cooperation) as well as essential action relating to prevention, identification and protection of victims, communication and outreach. France also supports victim defence associations, NGOs and civil society.
France is committed to developing close cooperation with the regions hardest hit by this phenomenon, particularly Africa. It is working within the framework of the project to support the fight against human trafficking in the Gulf of Guinea implemented by Expertise France and co-funded by the European Union. This region and its States are one of the areas of the world hardest hit by human trafficking and it is deemed to be France’s second-highest priority area, after the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
In the 2013-2017 period, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) financed a Priority Solidarity Fund of €800,000 to “Support the Fight Against Human Trafficking in the States of the Gulf of Guinea”. This fund enabled five Gulf of Guinea countries (Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire) to build their capacities to fight human trafficking.
Expertise France is carrying out phase two of this project for implementation in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Togo. The project is set to last four years, with a budget of €18 million (€600,000 of which was contributed by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs).
As a destination country for human trafficking from the Balkans, France is implementing a regional cooperation strategy in South-Eastern Europe. This strategy is based on the presence of a regional technical adviser responsible for human trafficking at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in Vienna. This adviser is working to implement cooperation activities with 11 South-Eastern European countries and is developing both technical and operational cooperation. The adviser’s work allows synergies to be created with all relevant partners, including multilateral partners (e.g. European Union, OSCE) in order to encourage capacity building, prevention, victim protection and dismantling criminal networks.