Men working in agriculture, hospitality and fisheries are most at risk of exploitation, according to human rights body.
Migrant workers are particularly at risk of exploitation | Chris Furlong/Getty Images
Labor trafficking and exploitation is on the rise in Europe, according to a new report by the Council of Europe published Tuesday.
The number of identified victims of labor trafficking has increased in every European country monitored twice by the Strasbourg-based human rights body, according to the report. In some countries — including Belgium, Cyprus, Georgia, Portugal, Serbia and the U.K. — labor exploitation has overtaken sex trafficking as the primary form of human trafficking.
“Our monitoring shows that more and more people are being trafficked to work in awful conditions in Europe, both within and across national borders,” said Siobhán Mullally, president of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), an independent panel of experts monitoring the implementation of international rules on combating human trafficking.
“Victims are often reluctant to come forward as they may fear deportation or retaliation from criminal trafficking networks,” according to Mullally. “Prosecutions and convictions of the perpetrators are also very rare.”
Most victims of labor exploitation — “one of the most challenging aspects of ‘modern-day slavery,'” according to GRETA — are male, and tend to work in sectors such as agriculture, hospitality and fisheries. Female victims are most likely to work in domestic or care work and fall prey to both labor and sexual exploitation.
Migrant workers are particularly at risk of exploitation, according to the report, which also points to recruitment via the internet and social media as a growing trend.
The report calls on national authorities in European countries to improve their monitoring of the practice and to prosecute traffickers. It recommends working with NGOs and businesses, as well as collecting data and introducing comprehensive legislation to tackle the issue.