Category: People Trafficking

People Trafficking – Question for Short Debate

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate as I have a long-standing interest in human trafficking. Some 200 years since the abolition of slavery, it is depressing that there is a continuing need to confront this evil. I very much appreciate the efforts made by the Government to address this problem, and I support the human trafficking strategy launched last July.

The strategy focused on raising awareness of trafficking and ensuring victims are safeguarded and protected. We need to redouble our efforts to help victims: this needs a local, as well as a national, focus. I commend the work of local anti-trafficking groups. We cannot hope to overcome this crime unless we are successful in raising the profile among communities.

I wish to speak about the effects of trafficking on children and young people who are its victims. In doing so, I congratulate Professor Jenny Pearce of the University of Bedfordshire and the ongoing commitment of the NSPCC. Professor Pearce’s research highlights considerable variations in practitioners’ understanding of the meaning of trafficking and problems with the delivery of child-centred practice.

Trafficked young people are especially vulnerable, and I welcome the guidance relating to child trafficking issued last October. Those responsible for their welfare, as well as those tasked with law enforcement, need to be equipped to respond fully to their specific, individual needs. We need a system whereby there is adequate signposting to national agencies and professionals providing appropriate support. We must ensure that vulnerable children are protected. Their safety and welfare ought to be prioritised. I look forward to the Minister’s response about what more we can do.

People Trafficking

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what sanctions can be imposed on companies who employ trafficked individuals.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): If there is sufficient evidence against an individual within a company, that s/he knowingly employed and exploited trafficked victims, those individuals can be prosecuted for offences of human trafficking or conspiracy to commit trafficking offences. The maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Furthermore, if there is evidence that a company has profited from the employment of trafficked individuals, there can be consideration of offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seize any profits they have made.

If a company in a Gangmasters Licensing Authority-regulated sector has knowingly employed illegal migrants who are victims of trafficking, their licence can be revoked under Gangmasters Licensing legislation. They could also be issued with fines by the UK Border Agency of up to £10,000.

The Gang masters Licensing Act 2004 also creates offences for persons who enter into arrangements under which a gangmaster supplies him/her with workers or services while not under the authority of a licence. The sanction which applies here is a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine, or both.

Sanctions for illegal activities including human trafficking can also be imposed on companies by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) by taxing the income, profits, and gains from human trafficking.


People Trafficking


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to increase educational provision for victims of child trafficking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): Victims of child trafficking have the same entitlement to education as all other children of compulsory school age. Schools should consider the specific needs of all children who are newly arrived from overseas. They should set them suitable learning challenges by modifying the curriculum to meet their needs, taking account of their cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and of their prior learning experiences and communication skills to help them overcome any barriers to learning and assessment.

People Trafficking


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support services are in place for victims of child trafficking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Government guidance—Safeguarding Children who may have been trafficked (2007)—issued to supplement and to be used in conjunction with the statutory safeguarding guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2006) includes detailed information for local authorities about how their safeguarding responsibilities must apply to children who may have been trafficked.

Where a young person, such as, for example, an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child (UASC), presents to a local authority as having no parent or guardian in this country, then in fulfilling its duties to assess and respond to their needs, the local authority may conclude that it should accommodate the young person using its powers under the Children Act 1989. In these circumstances, the local authority will have duties to the young person as a looked-after child. Each child must have a care plan based on a thorough assessment, outlining how the local authority proposes to meet the individual child’s needs. 

People Trafficking


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken to increase the number of places available in safe accommodation to victims of human trafficking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking which the Government ratified in December last year commits the UK to provision of safe sheltered accommodation for all those trafficked persons who need it.

The Government have consequently invested £4 million into specialist support services for victims of human trafficking over the next two years.

This includes an investment of £3.7 million into the Poppy project to expand and improve the services that are available to victims who have been trafficked into the sex industry and domestic servitude. The additional investment will see an expansion of supported accommodation, with refuge places for victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in London, Sheffield and Cardiff. The investment will also fund a new national co-ordinator who will help set best practice standards and work with areas to raise awareness with local agencies and funding commissioners. There will also be an increase in advocacy workers to help provide one-to-one tailored support and the community outreach team will also be extended with two link workers based within the UK Human Trafficking Centre to work in partnership with the police, the UK Border Agency and other partners to help with victim identification and onward referral into support.

Additionally, £300,000 is being invested into the UK Human Trafficking Centre to develop flexible support services for victims of labour trafficking.


People Trafficking

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to tackle human trafficking and to provide assistance to its victims.

Lord Brett: My Lords, we continue to make the UK a hostile environment for trafficking and to ensure that victims are protected as part of our comprehensive victim-centred, end-to-end strategy, as set out in the UK plan to tackle human trafficking. This approach has been reinforced by our ratification of the Council of Europe convention against human trafficking which came into effect on 1 April and which strengthens our identification and protection arrangements for victims.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I have a number of concerns but will confine myself to two points. First, bearing in mind that victims of human trafficking are all over the country, what is being done to ensure that training is provided to all the police forces? Secondly, as human trafficking is a global problem, what liaison is being maintained between us and other European countries and other foreign countries?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Lord on both the points he makes. Our strategy regards the fight against human trafficking as a core part of police business, and the training of all police officers in all regions is an essential part of that. Providing funding for that activity through the core funding of police is also important. The noble Lord makes a very important point; in many cases we are a destination country for trafficked people. Some years ago when I chaired a major conference with Interpol I came across the most horrific story involving deaf and dumb people who were trafficked from Russia to sell dolls in France, and the evidence suggested that they never returned to Russia if they failed to sell the dolls in question. It is most important that we use Interpol and our European colleagues and the UK is playing a leading part in that task.

People Trafficking: Children

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What proposals they have to tackle trafficking of children following the report on this subject by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, published in June. [HL4754]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Home Office commissioned this report in 2006 to improve our knowledge of the nature and extent of child trafficking in the UK. We are most concerned about the plight of child victims revealed in the findings and welcome the recommendations, which are being actively pursued as part of the Government’s action plan on tackling human trafficking.

People Trafficking

My Lords, I was born and brought up in Africa, which has been ravaged by the evils of slavery. In addition to appreciating the remarkable work accomplished by William Wilberforce, I pay tribute to the historical figures General Gordon and Dr David Livingstone, who both died in Africa and did outstanding work against slavery. As a young man, I visited Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika, where Dr Livingstone met HM Stanley.

As we all know, it has been 200 years since slavery was abolished in the British Empire, but unfortunately there is a modern form of slavery—people trafficking. This is a rapidly growing scourge that affects countries and families on every continent. Many ask how and why people can be trafficked in this era. Some may be forcibly abducted and brought into the UK, but many victims put themselves or their children in the hands of traffickers to escape poverty and discrimination. This is particularly true of women and children trafficked from the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union and central and eastern Europe. They are promised well paid jobs, education and marriage. Many women believe that they will be able to send money back to their families. In reality, they often end up exploited and abused, and escape is very difficult. Traffickers often pay for the cost of their victims’ passage into the UK. Burdened with that debt and unable to secure legitimate employment, the victims are extremely vulnerable. If they refuse to submit to the traffickers’ demands or attempt to escape, they may have their passports confiscated or be subjected to intimidation, violence, torture or rape. Traffickers also make threats of violence against friends and family as a way of ensuring that their victims keep working and do not try to escape.

The Government estimate that there were roughly 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK at any one time in 2003. Some people believe that the number is considerably higher. The suggestion that the number of women being trafficked for prostitution in the UK is on the increase seems to be corroborated by the fact that whereas 10 years ago 85 per cent of women in brothels were UK citizens, now 85 per cent are from outside the UK. According to the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Vienna, human trafficking has become the fastest growing facet of organised crime. It is also incredibly lucrative.

There are numerous cases of migrant workers being trafficked into Britain and exploited. There is unfortunately a new underclass subject to deception, systematic underpayment and appalling living conditions. This is a kind of forced or bonded labour and another form of modern-day slavery. Trafficking to exploit labour involves a number of factors, including the use of deception, intimidation, removal of documents, excessive charges for accommodation and transport, exploitation of someone’s irregular immigration status or the fact that they are in debt in order to force them to work in conditions to which they do not agree. The Government needs to go much further to combat the exploitation of migrant workers.

Few issues are more suited to international co-operation than dealing with human trafficking. I welcome the Government’s decision to sign the European Convention on Human Trafficking, which has yet to be ratified. At the moment, these human beings have no guaranteed protection. They are treated as illegal immigrants, deported and, in many cases, retrafficked. We need safe havens so that these people can be protected.

I was heartened to learn about the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre. It is a government co-ordinated policing initiative based in Sheffield, which acts as a research and intelligence centre and co-ordinates training. I am also pleased to note that the Metropolitan Police has set up a dedicated unit to combat human trafficking. The Government now recognise the importance of legislation to prevent trafficking. For example, the recent UK Borders Bill contains a provision for the extension of the scope of existing trafficking offences, which will implement one of the proposals in the Government’s UK action plan on the trafficking of human beings. However, I am disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken in this Bill to introduce more effective protection for the victims of trafficking.

I should like to see the law on trafficking strengthened and internationalised. I shall put further proposals forward to support the enforcement of the legislation domestically and to consider how we can better protect the victims. I have five proposals. First, experience tells us that the specialisation of police services is effective in fighting new types of crime. We need to cut off the routes of people trafficking into the UK. Therefore, a UK border police force with expertise for intercepting traffickers and victims at our borders should be established. Secondly, I should like to see immigration officials at all airports perform separate interviews for women and children travelling alone with an adult who is not a parent, guardian or husband. That may identify potential victims of trafficking.

Thirdly, support should be provided for the child and adult victims of trafficking. They should be referred to specialised services that can offer secure accommodation, information in a language that they understand, medical or psychological assistance and a means to communicate with family. This is in line with Article 6 of the UN protocol on trafficking, to which the UK is a signatory. Fourthly, we must prioritise by offering amnesty to users, so that they will come forward if they suspect people have been trafficked. This can be achieved by promoting social responsibility in the UK through public campaigns targeted at potential consumers and employers highlighting awareness of the terrible suffering caused by forced labour and prostitution.

Finally, with regard to bonded labourers, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and national minimum wage enforcement teams should be rigorous in ensuring that labourers are not mistreated. It is essential that the activities of rogue gangmasters are curbed.

In conclusion, I should like to say that in addition to remembering and appreciating the work done by William Wilberforce, General Gordon and Dr Livingstone, we must all work together to combat this modern-day form of slavery. I would appreciate the Minister’s comments on the points I have raised.