Residence permit for victims of human trafficking
Residence permits of temporary duration may be issued to non-EU nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or (optionally) the subject of an illegal immigration action. It is hoped that this will encourage them to cooperate with the competent authorities whilst providing them with adequate protection.
Council Directive 2004/81/EC of 29 April 2004 on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an
The directive sets out the procedure for issuing and renewing the residence permit and the conditions for non-renewal or withdrawal, as well as the treatment of victims prior to and after being granted a permit.
The directive applies to non-EU nationals regardless of whether they have entered the EU illegally. Permits can be granted to those who have reached the age of majority in the respective EU country and may apply to children under the conditions set out in national laws.
Persons concerned must be informed of the possibilities offered under this directive by the competent authorities of the relevant EU country. Non-EU nationals are granted a reflection period to recover and to escape the influence of the perpetrators of the offences. This allows them to make an informed decision on whether to cooperate with the investigating authorities. During this period, the non-EU nationals concerned should:
not be made subject to any expulsion order;
if required, be provided with help to ensure they have adequate living standards and with access to emergency medical and, if appropriate, psychological treatment;
have access to translation and interpreting services, where appropriate;
have access to free legal aid, if provided for in national law.
The competent authorities are responsible for assessing whether the:
presence of the victim can help the investigation;
victim has shown a clear intention to cooperate;
victim cut all contact with those suspected of the given offences.
When the above three conditions have been fulfilled, a temporary renewable residence permit, valid for at least 6 months, will be issued. The permit can be renewed if the relevant conditions continue to be satisfied. The permit grants the holder access to the labour market and to vocational training and education, under conditions determined in national legislation.
The residence permit may not be renewed if the conditions of this directive are no longer met or if the relevant proceedings have been terminated. The permit may be withdrawn for a number of reasons, including if the victim renews contact with those suspected of committing the offences or ceases to cooperate or when the proceedings are discontinued.
EU countries are free to adopt or maintain more favourable provisions for the persons covered by this directive.
While the collection of data on various aspects of this directive still needs to be improved, two reports from the Commission on the application of the directive in 2010 and in 2014 have found that the possibility to issue permits in exchange for cooperation with authorities might be under-utilised by EU countries.
This directive must be read in conjunction with Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. The latter provides a horizontal legal framework for both EU and non-EU citizens and has reinforced most provisions of Council Directive 2004/81/EC, including the protection and assistance framework for children.
Council Directive 2004/81/EC
Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Directive 2004/81 on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration, who cooperate with the competent authorities (COM(2010) 493 final of 15.10.2010).
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the application of Directive 2004/81 on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration, who cooperate with the competent authorities (COM(2014) 635 final of 17.10.2014).