You have come from all over Europe and you have crossed many borders to come here today. That is no coincidence - because we are gathered here today to talk about a challenge that transcends borders and concerns all of Europe.
Trafficking in Human beings is one of the biggest challenges of our time - it is a grim taking advantage of vulnerability, placing human beings in a situation of slavery, debt bondage and exploitation. It is also a humanitarian challenge and to meet that challenge we must mobilize many different kinds of capacities.
Therefore it is my great pleasure to welcome such a distinguished group of people from international organisations, NGOs and governmental representatives from all over Europe along with a strong representation of our Red Cross/Red Crescent friends and colleagues.
We are delighted to have the presence of Dr. Helga Konrad the OSCE Special Representative for Trafficking in Human beings. She is a good friend of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. I remember her passionate statement at the last European Red Cross/Red Crescent Conference in Berlin in 2002, and we appreciate her continued guidance and support.
We are very pleased to see numerous IOM colleagues here - our working relationship is developing dynamically in various countries, it is a relationship that is important for us.
Trafficking in human beings is a major challenge in Europe today. The phenomenon has been increasingly subject of conferences, action plans and projects, but despite the fact that it has moved up the political agenda in recent years, we are far from having found the ways to deal with the problem.
Globally, it is estimated that some 2-4 million people are trafficked every year. Some 43 countries in Europe are considered to have a significant number of victims of severe forms of human trafficking.
I here cite the US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report for 2004 - still the only global source on Trafficking in Human Beings. A problem of this nature and magnitude challenges us to think differently about the way we work, and who we work with!
For obvious reasons, figures and statistics on trafficking are hard to come by, and often they only represent the tip of the iceberg, namely the numbers of persons that are identified and subsequently assisted by authorities or NGOs. However, the majority of the victims remain "in the shadows".
The latest reports from the field describe the flexibility and rapidly changing strategies used by human traffickers. Trafficking in human beings is a dynamic phenomenon and we are forced to keep changing our approaches to keep up with the challenges.
We acknowledge that for the sake of vulnerable individuals - victims of trafficking - we must work in this way, to address the problems we face in our daily work be it as social workers, law enforcement employee, or staff and volunteers from NGOs and the Red Cross.
However, considerable experience has been accumulated over the past years by practitioners dealing with trafficking in human beings. In this spirit our Conference today had been conceived: to take stock of the good practises in Europe, to exchange information, and learn from each other.
It is clear, that no single organisation or country can defeat Trafficking in Human Beings alone. I am equally convinced that we must take the issue a step further. Trafficking is closely linked to poverty, marginalisation and social stigma. Trafficking is closely linked to other aspects of vulnerability.
For this reason, social and economic development policies as matter of enlightened self-interest need to take into account trafficking in human beings.
This involves recognition of the problem, incorporation and integration of more focused engagement in awareness and prevention, and research is needed. This also requires follow-up for countries on the demand side. Countries of origin, transit and destination must work together.
The legislative framework is emerging. The latest development being the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. I find this very encouraging. The Convention is already ratified by more than the 10 countries needed for it to enter into force.
We should also be clear that countries in Europe are at different stages in their efforts to address human trafficking. This conference will provide a forum for flagging good approaches that you can bring home and feed into those processes.
The Danish Red Cross will follow-up the recommendations of this Conference. We will publish a manual on good practises as a practical reference material to creative and innovative practises in approaching Human Trafficking. We will not do this alone but rather working closely with you today present. The manual will be ready by September 2005.
Today, we make a humanitarian and independent forum available to you for debate and discussion. Our mission is a humanitarian one as you all know. We see the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and civil society as indispensable in dealing with Human Trafficking.
It is widely acknowledged that the problems related to Human Trafficking cannot be seen simply as law enforcement or a migration problem only. It is perhaps most importantly a human rights issue, which can only be addressed in a holistic and coherent way taking a victim-centred approach.
Ladies and Gentlemen, For the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement the principal entry point for working with trafficking is vulnerability.
We take a global approach to vulnerability rather than focus on legal status or any other label that may be applied to a person or group of persons.
Furthermore, the need to address issues arising from displacement and migration beyond the conventional wisdom is articulated in the Council of Delegates Resolution 4 from 2001, which calls upon the National Societies and the International Federation to "develop a proposal for a plan of action on other aspects of population movement … and the resultant vulnerability".
The European Red Cross/Red Crescent conference adopted the "Berlin Plan of Action on migration" calls upon all European National Societies to "act against all forms of exploitation and deception" - words echoing those key elements in the definition of human trafficking contained in the UN Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons from 2000.
Human trafficking must be viewed in an all-European context. This in turn calls for local, regional and international coordination and cooperation. A comprehensive strategy is needed that addresses root causes, the trafficking chain and the vulnerabilities of trafficking victims. As much responsibility lies with the demand side as with the supply side and both must be addressed at the same time.
Governments and the European institutions must take a leading role in developing this strategy. However the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement has an important contribution to make in maintaining an independent humanitarian approach and drawing upon its national and international outreach and network.
A year ago the Danish Red Cross initiated the European Red Cross and Red Crescent cooperation in response to human trafficking - a joint effort of the Danish Red Cross with Red Cross National Societies in Europe and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Our the ambition is to create a forum for cooperation and development of activities; for creating a common approach to working against human trafficking in Europe; for developing programmes and engaging in respective national action plans; for exchanging information and experience and replicating successful programmes.
It calls for coordinated establishment of operational partnerships between interested National Societies; for a permanent capacity building; for liaising with major stakeholders, local as well as international, as partners in the cooperation.
We believe the strengths of Red Cross/Red Crescent is in its country-wide network branches in all European countries, its long-standing humanitarian tradition making it recognized by all including the victims.
Furthermore, the Red Cross Societies can mainstream through education of its branch network and volunteers a Trafficking in Human Beings related component into their youth programmes, population movement programmes, health programmes, psycho-social programmes, humanitarian assistance programmes and tracing activities.
In doing so the Red Cross through its branch network is well positioned to provide protection, raise public awareness and to engage in prevention by reducing risks through information provision and tailor-made activities.
The Danish Red Cross itself is involved in the field Human Trafficking both in its international work by hosting the European network and through domestic efforts reflected in the activities of the Asylum Department especially with children victims of trafficking in Denmark.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Danish Red Cross and a number of Red Cross colleagues are getting increasingly involved; we want to increase our knowledge and would like to work together with you all.
The Red Cross/Red Crescent through its distinctive way of working makes a contribution that goes beyond direct service delivery and advocacy. It provides a "space" where people can come together to achieve solutions to problems".
Our goal is provide such a "space" today and in the future. Put it to good use now! I wish you a fruitful conference!