Counting what counts: EU trafficking statistics

Van Dijk et al. (2014). Counting what counts; Tools for the validation and utilization of EU statistics on human trafficking. Final report of the TrafStat research project.

“In recent year several authors have critiqued the release of unfounded estimates of theglobal number of trafficked persons for sexual exploitation (United States Government Accountability Office, 2006; Jordan, 2011). Exaggerated estimates can, it is argued, trigger se n- sationalist media stories provoking policy responses that are more emotions -driven than evidence -based and that can lead to mistaken policy decisions.

Against the background of this ongoing debate, it was to be expected that the launch of the first Eurostat report on THB statistics would be critically assessed (Vogel, 2014). It has been pointed out that al t- hough the statistics on the numbers of identified victim s in the Eurostat report are duly surrounded with methodological caveats, the official press release nevertheless noticed an “alarming upward trend” and a preponderance of women and minors among its victims.

During our seminars with invited experts , many of them expressed concerns about the possible political use of THB statistics for other purposes than the protection of the human rights of victims. Statistics on THB could, for example , be misused for the promotion of ultimate political agendas such as those on more stringent migration policies or the abolition of all forms of prostitution.

Examples given include proposals for more stringent screening or refusal of visa applications of nationals of certain countries as a prevention measure of h u- man traffick ing. A case in point is the moral panic about the expected ten thousands of tra f- ficked persons on the occasion of the 2006 World Soccer Cup in Germany triggering calls for more stringent visa screening of potential sex workers (Jordan, 2011). In the event, no surge in human trafficking for sexual exploitation materialized.”

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