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Effective fight against trafficking in human beings

Trafficking in human beings is a serious and organised form of crime that involves the criminal exploitation of vulnerable people, the goal of which is the economic gain. This crime is often cross-border and consistently the vast majority of its victims are women and girls, around one fourth of all victims being children. Around half of the victims are EU nationals within the EU.

Trafficking can take place for various exploitation purposes, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, servitude, removal of organs, forced criminality (e.g. pickpocketing or drug trafficking). Trafficking in human beings is a grave violation of people’s fundamental rights and dignity, and is explicitly prohibited by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Understanding the nature, scale and costs of the crime is key to ensuring appropriate action at the European level to prevent the phenomenon. The 2017 Communication (COM(2017) 728 final) identifies as key priorities: to address the culture of impunity via disrupting the business model of criminals and untangling the trafficking chain; to provide a better access to and realise the rights of victims; to intensify a coordinated and consolidate response within and outside the EU.

Innovation, reliable and comprehensive statistics are crucial in obtaining a complete intelligence picture of this crime, the modus operandi of the related criminal groups, identifying and addressing trends, developing evidence-based policy, and measuring the impact of individual initiatives. Innovative intelligence-based technological means of detecting, tracking and disrupting the online activities related to trafficking in human beings (including darknet) should be developed as well. The proposed activities would also aim to contribute to countering the culture of impunity by increasing the capacity of Police Authorities to detect the trafficking crime, the suspected perpetrators and the victims and to disrupt the business model and/or establish responsibility of all those involved in the trafficking chain.

Activities proposed within this topic should address both societal and technological dimensions of trafficking in human beings in a balanced way, taking care of the applicable EU legal and policy framework including fundamental rights and ethics. Since the international dimension of this crime should be analysed as well, both Police and Border Guards Authorities should be involved in the consortia, in order to tackle effectively all aspects of this crime, such as finding together means of disrupting the human traffickers’ business model. Collaboration with Police Authorities, security practitioners and Border Guards Authorities from countries of origin or transit of criminal networks would be an added value.

Coordination with successful proposals under topic HORIZON-CL3-2021-FCT-01-08, HORIZON-CL3-2021-FCT-01-09, HORIZON-CL3-2021-FCT-01-10, HORIZON-CL3-2022-FCT-01-05 and HORIZON-CL3-2022-FCT-01-06 should be envisaged so as to avoid duplication and to exploit complementarities as well as opportunities for increased impact. Proposed activities that could also link with security research for border management (e.g. border checks or security controls) would be an asset. This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities. Due to the specific scope of this topic, in order to achieve the expected outcome, international cooperation is encouraged.