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, generating no less than $32 billion in annual revenue for the traffickers.
Every year, an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide, mostly women and children, are recruited and exploited by traffickers. The types of exploitation to which they may be exposed are many and varied: sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic slavery, organ trafficking, criminal acts, or forced begging.
This issue, which is enshrined in the fight against transnational organized crime, is a genuine cause for concern for the international community and for France in particular as trafficking is also one of the most serious violations of human rights and dignity.
Combatting human trafficking is one of France’s priorities for protecting and promoting human rights and fighting against organized crime.
At a national level, an interministerial mission for the protection of women
against violence and the fight against human trafficking (MIPROF) was created in January 2013, with the aim of providing greater protection for trafficking victims.
In May 2014, the government adopted a national action plan against human trafficking with three priorities: the protection of victims, dismantling networks linked to trafficking, and implementing a fully-fledged public policy on this issue. In accordance with law n° 2016-444 of 13 April 2016 which seeks to reinforce the fight against the system of prostitution and to support prostitutes, funds are allocated to help prevent prostitution and to provide social and professional support to victims of prostitution and of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
On 18 October 2019, France announced the adoption of a second national action plan against human trafficking, process led by the MIPROF (Interministerial mission for the protection of women against violence and the fight against human trafficking), working closely with associations. This plan reaffirms the French government’s commitment to reinforcing the fight against human trafficking on the basis of 45 precise measures. The plan wishes to place the subject of human trafficking at the forefront of the public debate, and to increase awareness amongst young people to the risks of exploitation; define a strategy to identify victims of human trafficking to ensure their protection and effective care; guarantee an inconditionnal protection to minors victims of trafficking; intensify the dismantling of criminal networks; coordinate public action at national and local level and finally, reinforce the international cooperation.
Internationally, France is working actively to universalize and effectively implement the Additional Protocol to 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 for combatting human trafficking. It asks the States to establish trafficking as a criminal offence, and contains provisions on prevention and the protection of victims and sets out international cooperation mechanisms in the areas of prosecution and suppression.
Subsequent to this legal instrument, in 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons (resolution 64/293), a soft law instrument which complements and promotes the effective application of the Additional Protocol. In 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations held a high-level meeting to assess the Global Plan of Action. Member States also proclaimed 30 July to be the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
France also supports the efforts deployed by the United Nations through the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), launched in 2007, which brings together international organisations involved in combating human trafficking in the interests of greater coordination and mutual reinforcement of their action. At the General Assembly of the United Nations, in 2009, 2012 and 2013, France supported resolutions on improving the coordination of actions against human trafficking and its other resolutions on human trafficking. It also supported in 2012 and 2014 the resolution on “Trafficking in women and girls” (resolution 69/149) and the resolution on “Permanent memorial to and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade” of 2013 and 2014 (resolution 69/19).
During its presidency of the Security Council in June 2016, France organized an open debate on the link between sexual violence and human trafficking, in the presence, among others, of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms Zainab Bangura, and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro. This meeting helped to emphasize both trading practices used in sexual slavery set up by certain terrorist groups, particularly Daesh, and the increased vulnerability among female refugees to human trafficking and sexual violence networks.
In December 2016, under the Spanish presidency of the Security Council, with the support of France, the Council unanimously adopted a historic resolution clearly defining the link between human trafficking, sexual violence and terrorism as a threat to international peace and security. Resolution 2331, which calls on Member States to take decisive and immediate action to prevent and prosecute human trafficking, including in the context of armed conflict, requests that the Secretary-General issue a report at the end of 2017. During the public debate which took place at the Council, at which the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Special Representative Bangura, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Myria Vassiliadou, two Yezidi representatives and about 70 delegations all made statements, France reiterated its commitment to combatting human trafficking, particularly of women and children, and against sexual violence committed against them in conflict situations.
As a leading contributor to the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons since its creation in 2010, on 21 December 2016, France was associated by the Office’s Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, with the launch of its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
Within the Human Rights Council, France supported the creation of a mandate for Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, a position currently held by Maria Grazia Giammarinaro.
France also supported the creation by the Human Rights Council in 2007 of a mandate for Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, which was renewed in September 2016 for three years.
France is also party to the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Within the European Union, there was a directive on trafficking in 2011, which France transposed, 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, from the perspective of the fight against criminal networks of human smugglers. Furthermore, trafficking in human beings is one of the 13 priorities of the EU policy cycle for fighting organized crime (2013-2017) and should be maintained in the next cycle (2018-2022).
France also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2008. This Convention places the victims at the heart of the mechanism. The Council of Europe created a treaty body, GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings), which has the aim of ensuring that this legal instrument is correctly applied. France is actively cooperating with GRETA, with which it is engaged in constructive cooperation and dialogue, and which it welcomed to France in 2016.
France is financing or supporting technical and cooperation assistance actions to fight trafficking via multilateral and bilateral channels. Multilaterally, it makes annual voluntary contributions to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for its actions against trafficking. France is also carrying out cooperation on a bilateral level.
In 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs drew up a strategy to combat human trafficking in West Africa, an area with inter-regional and Europe-bound trafficking.
Circular cross-border trafficking is active in this region: the countries involved are simultaneously countries of origin, transit and destination. This is particularly common in six Gulf of Guinea countries: Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo. The most common forms of human trafficking there are forced labour, mainly among children, and the sexual exploitation of women and young girls. The scale of this trafficking has led to a major black economy, which is a factor in destabilizing States.
Human trafficking in this region has both a domestic and transnational dimension. It is intimately linked with European trafficking, as some of the victims from West Africa arrive in Western Europe via the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware of the scale of the problem and in 2013 set up a Priority Solidarity Fund (PSF): “Support for the fight against trafficking in human beings in the Gulf of Guinea States”. This four-year project primarily focuses on cross-border trafficking, which is why five Gulf of Guinea States were chosen as beneficiaries (Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo), as high levels of trafficking take place there. The PSF’s main objective is to help increase these States’ ability to combat human trafficking and place the victims at the centre of strategies to fight this scourge.
As a destination country for human trafficking from the Balkans, France is implementing a regional cooperation strategy in South-East Europe based on the presence of a position of regional technical adviser responsible for combatting human trafficking, located at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in Vienna. This adviser is developing cooperation actions with 11 countries in South-East Europe and both technical and operational cooperation by creating synergies with all relevant partners, including multilateral actors (European Union, OSCE) in order to encourage capacity building, prevention, the protection of victims and the dismantling of criminal networks. Emphasis is placed on trafficking affecting minors.
Within this framework, France is committed to taking account of the new environment created by the migration crisis, which affects the Balkan route. Although trafficking in human beings is different to migrant trafficking, migrants, due to their vulnerability, are at a greater risk of trafficking.
Updated: October 2019