Council of Europe calls for anti-trafficking action

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BELGRADE, Oct 18 (Reuters) The Council of Europe appealed to its member countries today to ratify a long-neglected treaty against human trafficking which needs only one more participant to enter into force.

Only nine of the Council's 47 members have so far ratified the Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, which includes measures to protect victims and prosecute traffickers and was drawn up in 2005.

''Every year 600,000 people all over the world become victims of human trafficking. Around 70 per cent of them are used as sex slaves, while others are victims of forced labour, organ donation and illegal adoption'', said Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, the deputy secretary-general of Europe's main human rights body.

''I hope transit countries such as Bosnia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia will soon ratify the Convention,'' she added, speaking at a meeting in Belgrade, which holds the Council chairmanship for the second half of 2007.

Balkan countries, impoverished by war in the 1990s, have been both countries of origin and transit points for trafficking, especially of young women forced into prostitution.

Under the eye of the European Union, which they all want to join, the Balkan countries are tightening legislation and border controls and are increasingly conducting transnational operations to arrest traffickers.

In one recent big bust, police from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia cooperated to break a trafficking ring that smuggled Turkish and Albanian nationals into Europe.

REUTERS RSA RN2026

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