EU nations lax on human trafficking as slavery worsens

Brussels warned European Union nations Monday to get a move on and adopt new rules against human trafficking or face sanctions as statistics showed modern-day slavery worsening across the bloc.

A first-ever report from the European Commission highlighted an 18 percent increase from 2008 to 2010 in identified and presumed victims of trafficking -- more than 23,000 across the 27-nation bloc.

"This is the sad truth," said Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem. "Men, women and children are being sold for sex, hard labour ... forced into marriages, domestic servitude, begging, or have their organs removed for trade."

"What we know is just the tip of the iceberg," she added.

Though the EU report showed less and less traffickers thrown behind bars in the same period -- a 13 percent decline -- member states had largely failed to implement a tough new package of rules agreed last year, she said.

Only six of 27 EU states have transposed the EU rules into national legislation despite an April 6, 2013 deadline, with three others partially in line.

"It is high time for member states to stop dragging their feet," Malmstroem said, calling for states to implement "without delay" the Anti-Trafficking Directive.

"I will not hesitate to take the necessary measures to ensure that this is being done," she added.

Europe two years ago agreed to toughen up against the booming trade in human trafficking, estimated to rake in an annual 2.5 billion euros, by broadening the definition of the crime -- from sexual exploitation and slave labour, to forced begging and removal of organs -- and setting harsher penalties.

Monday's EU report showed seven out of 10 victims to be women and 15 percent, children.

More than half of the victims -- 61 percent -- were from EU nations, most often Romania and Bulgaria, with Nigeria and China as the most common countries of origin outside Europe.