29 May 2009Poland’s accession to both the European Union (EU) and the Schengen zone has transformed it into both a transit and destination country for human trafficking, a United Nations independent expert said today, noting that the Eastern European nation has made progress in fighting the scourge. Poland’s accession to both the European Union (EU) and the Schengen zone has transformed it into both a transit and destination country for human trafficking, a United Nations independent expert said today, noting that the Eastern European nation has made progress in fighting the scourge.The scale of trafficking was already serious in Poland, but has become aggravated in the past five years due to joining the EU and the Schengen zone, Joy Ngozi, the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, said, wrapping up a six-day visit to the country.“The endemic forms of trafficking include, but are not limited to, trafficking for labour exploitation, for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation,” she said.According to information provided by both the Government and by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the number of trafficking cases is on the rise.Poland has ratified key international and human rights treaties, including the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons to the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), under which States are required to take action to ensure the protection of trafficking victims, prevent trafficking and bring traffickers to justice.Ms. Ngozi said that the Government has taken steps in combating the scourge through cooperation with neighbouring countries. It has amended its Criminal Code to punish perpetrators of trafficking and has a law on domestic violence in place.Further, Poland has a comprehensive law on trafficking in human organs and tissue, “which is very forward-looking and has been enacted and is indeed a welcome development as we must ensure that all forms of trafficking are criminalized,” she added.But the Rapporteur, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity, noted that there are other steps the country must take to effectively address human trafficking.Poland lacks a clear definition of trafficking in its criminal law, labour exploitation is on the rise and availability and access to help for trafficking victims is limited, she said.Additionally, judicial proceedings for trafficking cases are unduly long, lasting two years on average. “Thus, efforts should be made by the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary to shorten the period and provide early case closure that will bring succour to victims and reduce trauma suffered, while redirecting focus to victims’ full reintegration and rehabilitation,” she noted.