Directive 2004/81/EC came into force on the date of its publication in the official journal, 6 August 2004. Member States were required to adopt the provisions necessary to implement the Directive by 6 August 2006. The Directive applies to all Member States except the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark.
The purpose of the Directive is to define the conditions for granting residence permits of limited duration, linked to the relevant national proceedings, to third country nationals who cooperate in the fight against trafficking in human beings or against action to facilitate illegal immigration. Member States are required to apply the Directive to victims of trafficking even if they have entered the territory of the Member States illegally.
Member States are obliged to apply the Directive to adults, and have discretion to apply it to minors. Member States are not precluded from adopting more favourable standards. Member States are obliged to grant non-EU nationals to whom the Directive applies a reflection period “allowing them to recover and escape the influence of the perpetrators of the offences so that they can take an informed decision as to whether to cooperate with the competent authorities.” The reflection period does not create any entitlement to residence. During the reflection period, the non-EU nationals shall have access to certain treatment, and may not be expelled. The non-EU nationals are entitled to a standard of living ensuring subsistence and access to emergency medical needs and special needs, and translation and interpreting services.
Member States may provide the non-EU nationals with free legal aid. A Member State may terminate the reflection period at any time if it is established that the non-EU national “has actively, voluntarily and on his/her own initiative renewed contact with the perpetrators of the offences”, or for reasons of public policy or national security. The residence permit is valid for at least six months, renewable if conditions continue to be satisfied.
The residence permit grants the holder access to the labour market, vocational training and education. The Member State may withdraw the residence permit at any time if its conditions are no longer satisfied.