Role of EU agencies

Many EU agencies are working against THB for labour exploitation. In October 2011, the Heads of the EU agencies CEPOL, Eurojust, Europol, FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency), Frontex, EASO (European Asylum Support Office) and EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) signed a statement in which they announced a joint commitment to address THB in a coordinated, coherent and comprehensive manner. The roles of the first five of these agencies in addressing THB for labour exploitation are explained here.

Role of Europol

Europol supports the EU member states in preventing and fighting all forms of serious international crime and terrorism, including THB for labour exploitation. It does this within the framework of EU law enforcement cooperation. Europol functions as a centre of expertise for strategic and operational intelligence and as an information hub for criminal data about the most threatening organised crime groups (OCGs) active in the EU.

Europol is responsible for:

  • Proposing recommendations for the multi-annual EU Policy Cycle on serious and international organised crime (based on the Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment, SOCTA), for example which forms of crime should be given priority
  • Supporting the related EMPACT projects at operational, logistic and administrative level (through the relevant Focal Points (FPs) and the EMPACT Support Unit)
  • Assisting law enforcement authorities of member states in cross-border and high-level investigations
  • Providing a secure and user-friendly communication and message exchange system SIENA for operational and strategic crime-related information amongst member states, Europol and Europol’s cooperation partners
  • Offering analytical and operational assistance during coordinated operational actions across the EU.

In addition to the financial, logistical and operational support provided to the law enforcement authorities of member states, Europol can also assist member states in investigating and prosecuting traffickers. Europol can help analyse criminal phenomena by providing intelligence, and provide training to law enforcement units and experts.

Role of Eurojust

Eurojust is the EU’s judicial cooperation unit. The coordinating role of Eurojust is particularly important in the fight against THB, as this type of crime is often cross-border and complex. The fight against THB is one of Eurojust’s operational priorities.

The mission of Eurojust is to support and strengthen coordination and cooperation between national investigating and prosecuting authorities, in relation to serious crime that affects two or more EU member states. To this end, Eurojust facilitates requests for and decisions about judicial cooperation. In particular requests for international mutual legal assistance, the implementation of European Arrest Warrants and extradition requests.

Eurojust can assist in identifying parallel proceedings in the member states and what competent authorities are needed to ensure effective cooperation. Also, Eurojust can help national practitioners to clarify differences in legal systems, for example: legal standards for the hearing of witnesses, wiretapping and disclosure procedures. It can help exchange information on ongoing investigations, decide which jurisdiction is best placed to prosecute, set up and fund Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). Eurojust can also coordinate common action days, for example for simultaneous searches, arrests, or seizures in different member states. And Eurojust helps to resolve practical issues of cross-border cooperation.

Trafficking and Related Crimes Team

A dedicated Eurojust Trafficking and Related Crimes Team has been set up to provide expertise, ideas, and best practice in judicial cooperation, and to assist the competent authorities of the member states in their efforts to combat trafficking-related crimes.

In 2012, Eurojust’s Trafficking and Related Crimes Team initiated a strategic project, Eurojust’s action against trafficking in human beings. The main objective of the project is to identify and address the reasons underlying the small number of THB prosecutions in the European Union, and to analyse obstacles in judicial cooperation in THB cases.

The fight against THB for labour exploitation constitutes one of the focuses of the strategic project for 2015-2016. A questionnaire sent to the member states addressing this form of THB and a Eurojust THB strategic meeting held in April 2015 explored in detail the main issues in prosecuting THB for labour exploitation and in judicial cooperation in this area. The findings of the questionnaire and the report of the strategic meeting are available on the Eurojust website, together with detailed information on Eurojust’s THB strategic project.

Role of Frontex

Frontex helps border authorities from different EU countries to work together, also in the field of trafficking in human beings. When it comes to trafficking in human beings, Frontex supports the member states during operations at the external borders of the EU, in capacity building and concerning risk analysis.

The main activities of Frontex in the fight against THB are:

  • awareness raising activities
  • prevention activities. Frontex does this by initiating the identification process, and thereby giving the competent authorities the first possibility to protect the victim and to start further investigation.

To develop their products and tools, Frontex uses the expertise of member state officials as well as that of other EU Justice and Home Affairs Agencies and International Organisations.

Member states can use the Frontex training tools in their national training programs and to raise awareness within their border guard community. The Frontex Handbook on Risk Profiles on Trafficking in Human Beings assists border guards at air, land and sea borders in the identification of possible victims of trafficking, especially during first- and second-line checks on entry into the EU and Schengen Associated Countries.

Frontex has incorporated information on the characteristics of THB for labour exploitation and detailed indicators to recognize these characteristics in the working material of the Frontex capacity building programme. Also, in the Frontex Handbook on Risk Profiles on THB, some of the third-country national profiles presented are related to THB for labour exploitation and could therefore be used by first-line responders to identify the phenomenon.

Frontex promotes, coordinates and develops European border management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter, applying the concept of Integrated Border Management.

Read more about the Frontex manual ‘Anti-trafficking training for border guards’.

Role of CEPOL

CEPOL, the European Police College, is the EU agency that is responsible for organising training for police officers in member states of the EU. It brings together police officers across Europe to encourage cross-border cooperation in the fight against crime and in maintaining public security and law and order. CEPOL provides learning and training opportunities for law enforcement officers throughout the EU. CEPOL works closely together with the member states, the Justice and Home Affairs Agencies, and other stakeholders at international level. Information on learning and training activities can be found on the CEPOL website.

CEPOL offers focused learning opportunities such as courses, seminars, exchange events, webinars, online modules, common curricula and training material for use within national training. These are also valid for the EMPACT group on Trafficking in Human Beings.

Training on THB for labour exploitation is particularly important in the context of enhancing multidisciplinary and cross-border cooperation to combat this type of crime. CEPOL has contributed to the project on THB for labour exploitation of the EMPACT group (OAP 2015, Action 4.1) by organising webinars on THB, including for labour exploitation, in 2014 and 2015. CEPOL also contributed to a training activity organised by Sweden, see CEPOL Training activity on THB for labour exploitation. CEPOL will continue to do so in the future, in accordance with learning and training requirements expressed by the member states and the EMPACT Group.

CEPOL has been contributing to the EU Policy Cycle priorities and has been participating in the planning of the Operational Action Plans since 2012. By aligning its activities with the requirements of these policies and plans, CEPOL ensures that its products reflect the training needs as expressed within the EMPACT  groups. All priority topics are supported with training packages as indicated in the Operational Action Plans.

Role of the FRA

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is one of the EU’s decentralised agencies. Through the collection and analysis of data in the EU, FRA provides evidence-based advice to the EU institutions and EU member states. FRA supports them in understanding and tackling challenges to safeguard the fundamental rights of everyone in the EU, including victims of crime.

Read more about research done by the FRA.