Report highlights the UK’s modern slave trade

May 14, 2009 at 6:53 pm Leave a comment

A new report on the trade in human beings in the UK has found there is a “poor understanding of the problem, patchy enforcement and little protection for victims.”

The Home Affairs Committee inquiry into “modern slave trade” said that trafficking is a “hidden crime” – its victims cannot or dare not make themselves known to the authorities for fear of retaliation or because they are or think themselves to be illegal immigrants.

“Some do not even realise that they are victims,” the committee said.

“They are concealed by physical isolation or language or cultural barriers, and may be operating under false identities.

“It is therefore not surprising—though it is frustrating—that no one was able to give us even a rough estimate of the scale of trafficking in the UK.”

The commitee also reported that around 60 per cent of suspected child victims in local authority care go missing and are not subsequently found.

“Evidence from the Local Government Association emphasised the degree of confusion still surrounding the question of how to detect child victims of trafficking, and the committee was particularly alarmed by accounts that traffickers may be, in effect, using the “care home system for vulnerable children as holding pens for their victims until they are ready to pick them up.””

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the committee, said:

“Unfortunately, our inquiry has painted a rather grim picture of a lack of understanding of, and therefore ability to deal with, the problem of human trafficking, among the various authorities in the UK and other EU countries.

“We need to be clear – this is not about “people smuggling”: illegally bringing willing people into the UK.

“This is not immigration crime and cannot be dealt with as such.

“What we are seeing is in effect a resurgence of a type of slave trade, yet we have no good information on the scale of the problem, enforcement is patchy, prosecution rates are low and there is little protection for victims.

“A number of agencies in the UK – for example, the Metropolitan Police Human Trafficking Unit and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority – are recognised internationally as examples of best practice in detecting and rescuing victims, but we need to greatly improve our understanding of the problem.

“We are disappointed that not all Member States are co-operating as fully with Europol as they could, and that not all EU Member States have taken practical measures to combat trafficking.

“However, we are today bringing together a “coalition of the willing”, representatives of agencies and committees in other EU countries, to discuss approaches and best practice in dealing with this appalling crime.”

The committee published the report to coincide with a conference “hosted by the committee that brings together the chairs of the relevant committees from across Europe.”

Click here to read the full report.

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