The Trade in Human Beings: Human Trafficking in the UK - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Describing the problem

1.  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) and, as we discuss later, some do not even realise that they are victims. 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. (Paragraph 40)

2.  Victim support organisations have been calling for better data on the scale of trafficking for years, and we had understood that production of such data (from a variety of sources) was one of the main tasks for which the UKHTC was established. Without reasonable estimates of the scale of the problem, it is difficult to raise public awareness and concern and to engage the variety of professionals who would be able to play a part in identifying possible victims. It also makes it impossible to gauge what support services are needed for victims. (Paragraph 41)

3.  We are pleased that progress is finally being made in producing data, but are disappointed it has not been faster. We look forward to seeing the results of the Minister's three-pronged approach later this year. (Paragraph 45)

4.  Given the UKHTC's apparent difficulty in making progress with data collection so far, appointing a National Rapporteur has its attractions. However, this would also add yet another organisation to the multitude involved in analysing and combating trafficking. An alternative would be to ensure that the UKHTC is properly resourced for the work of data collection, which should be given a high priority as it will form the basis of a proper assessment of the resources needed to tackle human trafficking and support victims. (Paragraph 42)


5.  We think it wrong that entry clearance officers are instructed to issue Migrant Domestic Workers visas even when they know that the employer intends to pay the worker less than the UK Minimum Wage: this makes a mockery of the concept of a legal minimum wage. (Paragraph 53)

6.  Existing employment law, the National Minimum Wage, regulations on rented accommodation and so on should be sufficient to prevent the sorts of abuses highlighted by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and UCATT—but only if they are enforced. It seems to us that, outside the Gangmasters Licensing Authority's sectors, enforcement is at best patchy and at worst non-existent. (Paragraph 55)

7.  Part of the solution lies in increasing public awareness of trafficking as a whole and of the different forms that it can take, including into 'normal' jobs. More particularly, there is a need to train a variety of public officials—health service workers, social workers, building inspectors, health and safety inspectors and others—about the various indicators of forced labour and where to find help if they suspect someone has been trafficked. (Paragraph 56)

8.  Another part of the solution is to look more closely at the sectors in which victims are employed. This could be done either by expanding the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority or by giving the relevant existing regulatory bodies equivalent licensing and enforcement powers to that Authority. We suggest that the construction industry should be the first focus and if, after two years, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate has not succeeded in reducing abuse, then the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority should be extended to cover construction. (Paragraph 57)

9.   We note the Government's decision to continue with the Migrant Domestic Worker visa regime, despite the introduction of the Points-based System for those from outside the EEA applying to work in the UK. However, the extension of the Migrant Domestic Worker visa regime is only for two years. We consider it likely that migrant domestic workers will need the special status afforded by the current visa regime for much longer than two years. (Paragraph 59)

10.  Immigration authorities should actually use the sanctions against employers of unregistered workers as a disincentive to exploitation of such workers, and when enforcement operations take place the officials should be careful to look out for signs of trafficking. (Paragraph 61)

11.  We welcome Newquest's decision not to carry any further adverts for 'adult entertainment' in its newspaper and urge other local newspapers to follow that lead and the Society of Editors to issue clear guidelines that newspapers should not accept advertisements for sex encounter establishments. (Paragraph 64)

12.  We do not intend to comment on the moral and practical arguments about the desirability of de-criminalising or further criminalising prostitution in the UK, as this was not part of our terms of reference in undertaking this inquiry. We do, however, wish to draw to the Government's attention the serious concerns expressed to us by police officers about the practicability of enforcing the proposed legislation. (Paragraph 67)

Identifying victims: the police

13.  We welcome the reappraisal of guidance to the CPS and ACPO on the prosecution of children trafficked to commit criminal offences. (Paragraph 71)

14.  There is a clear need for greater awareness training in police forces so that officers realise that domestic workers, too, may be victims of trafficking and are not merely possible illegal immigrants. This training should cover signs such as deliberate confiscation and retention of identity documents and reports by employers that domestic workers have absconded from their homes (Paragraph 75)

15.  The Human Trafficking unit of the Metropolitan Police serves a national as well as a local role, in providing an example of best practice that is regarded as a model by other police forces, by NGOs and by foreign law enforcement bodies and multinational agencies such as Europol. In principle, we agree that best practice must spread out from specialist units to inform the work of every police officer and PCSO in the UK if trafficking victims are to be identified and rescued whenever and wherever they appear. However, we are still a long way from that ideal, even within London: as our witnesses acknowledged, the UK is just starting to tackle the problems of trafficking for forced labour and for street crime. We are therefore particularly disturbed by the police officers' assessment that closing down the unit will make it more difficult to identify trafficking victims. (Paragraph 85)

16.  Furthermore, we are concerned about the continuing tendency to view trafficking as an immigration crime, coupling it with facilitation or people smuggling, which is completely different. Not only does this increase the risk that victims will be treated only as those whose immigration status needs to be determined, it also poses the threat that those whose immigration status is not in doubt—UK nationals or those from the EEA, or migrant domestic workers with the correct visas, for example—will be ignored altogether. (Paragraph 86)

17.  As a result, we recommend that the Home Office continue to provide funding at its original level for the specialist Human Trafficking unit of the Metropolitan Police beyond 2010, until it can be proved that sufficient expertise on identifying victims of trafficking and dealing with the perpetrators has been spread through police forces throughout the UK. (Paragraph 87)

18.  We note also that only two of the six police posts in the Paladin Team are funded specifically for this purpose. This team, also, is a national and international exemplar, and we recommend it be fully funded so that it can continue its vital work. (Paragraph 88)

Identifying victims: UKBA

19.   It is imperative that the Government amend the 2004 Act to clarify the status of very young victims. We note that the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [Lords] now awaiting second reading in this House presents a good opportunity to make such an amendment. (Paragraph 93)

20.  Time after time in our inquiries into immigration and asylum matters we are told that the UKBA's rules and processes are good but they are not carried out properly. Our witnesses said that the UKBA is trying to ensure that victims of trafficking are correctly identified and then treated appropriately within the immigration system, and we are sure that many UKBA officials are doing their best. However, the evidence we have received is that there are still major gaps in awareness and training within the agency. These must be addressed by a greater emphasis on the excellent guidance already available. (Paragraph 99)

21.  We were also disturbed to hear anecdotal evidence of a lack of awareness about trafficking and its effect on victims among immigration judges. It seems that there is a pressing need for training of judges, too. (Paragraph 100)

22.  We are concerned that the Government's laudable aims of deterring fraudulent applications for asylum and speeding up the decision processes for genuine asylum-seekers may disadvantage the often severely traumatised victims of trafficking. At the very least, the Government must consider whether the existing exemptions from Fast Track processes adequately protect people trafficked for forced labour who—not least because of the lack of support services for them—may well not present through recognised expert bodies like the Poppy Project. Removing people from the Fast Track does not mean that their cases would be examined less rigorously; it just means that there would be more time in which evidence of trafficking might be adduced. (Paragraph 106)

23.  Since we finished taking oral evidence for this inquiry, the UK has ratified the Council of Europe Convention Against Human Trafficking. It has announced the introduction of a 45 day reflection and recovery period, and "the possibility" of a one-year residence permit for victims. We welcome many aspects of this, but would like the Government to confirm that clear instructions have been issued to all immigration case workers that the reflection and recovery period applies to all victims of human trafficking, not just those forced into the sex trade, and that it is not dependent on the victim's co-operation with law enforcement authorities. We would also like clarification of whether the 45-day period came into force immediately on ratification of the Convention by the UK on 17 December 2008. (Paragraph 107)

24.  We remain concerned that, for some severely traumatised victims, 45 days may be too short a time for them to recover sufficiently to make an informed decision about co-operating with the police—not least because there are so few support and counselling services available to victims. We recommend that provision exceptionally be made for the reflection period to be extended for the most severely traumatised, where this is recommended in reports from psychiatrists experienced in dealing with such victims. (Paragraph 108)

25.  We also ask the Government to clarify whether victims would be able in any circumstances to obtain an extension of the one-year residence permit. (Paragraph 110)

26.  Voluntary returns of victims should be encouraged; but it is both cruel and pointless to return victims of trafficking to their home countries if they are just going to be sent back to western Europe again shortly afterwards. The UKBA must make more use of the intelligence available from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and NGOs as to the real level of support for reintegration of victims into their home country in order to judge whether returning them is appropriate. We also recommend that the Government make an assessment of the extent of re-trafficking. (Paragraph 113)

27.  We understand why the fixed fee system for immigration cases was introduced, and have no wish to encourage frivolous cases or vexatious appeals. However, we do in part share immigration lawyers' concerns that some law firms may be unwilling or unable to take the risk of such potentially high-cost cases. We recommend the Government to keep under review whether there is a decline in the willingness of lawyers to represent those suspected of being victims of trafficking, and, if so, to exempt such claimants from the fixed fee system, subject to safeguards such as the need for their claim to be supported by recognised experts like the Poppy Project. (Paragraph 114)

28.  The Migrant Domestic Worker visa was introduced to deter abuse of such workers. An essential part of the regime is that before a visa is issued there should be screening to ensure that the worker is travelling of (usually her) own free will and there are no obvious signs of maltreatment. It is also vital that the worker is given information about her employment rights in the UK. This can be done only if the worker is interviewed by the post issuing the visa, and interviewed separately from the employer. We wish the posts named in Kalayaan's list as failing to follow the correct procedures to give us an assurance that they will tighten up procedures in future; and we want the UKBA to explain to us what they are doing to ensure that all posts are aware of and apply these requirements in future. (Paragraph 118)

29.  Immigration officers should look out for cases where adults are not holding their own passports and should make inquiries, if necessary insisting that the person not in possession of their passport be interviewed separately. Even if there is no evidence of abuse, this would enable Migrant Domestic Workers to be informed of their rights at this point. (Paragraph 119)

Identification: other authorities

30.  Local authorities obviously are important in terms of their responsibilities for services for children. They often know who the worst employers are in their area, and their officials may well come across victims in the course of routine inspections. We applaud the imaginative action being taken by a number of London Borough Councils, and the fact that they appear to be conscious of the need to spread experience and best practice. We are, however, disturbed that yet again the initiatives seem confined to London—or, if they are not, the Local Government Association appears unaware of them. There must be a much more concerted effort to use local knowledge and the opportunities provided by existing local activities to identify trafficking victims. We ask the Government to inform us what it intends to do to encourage the spread of best practice among local authorities. (Paragraph 126)

31.  CEOP is concentrating on raising awareness about child trafficking among those working in the health service and education. There is clearly also scope for raising awareness of adult victims of trafficking among health providers (Paragraph 127)

32.  UCATT's evidence on the changing profile of the construction industry confirms us in our conclusion that the GLA model should be extended to other sectors. (Paragraph 134)

National Referral Mechanism

33.  We hope that the UKHTC and UKBA have learned the lessons from 'Operation Tolerance'. It is obvious that greater thought needs to be given to the practicalities of identifying and assisting victims. As ECPAT UK points out, much of the work of supplying accommodation and support services needs to be done with local knowledge and contacts, and we are concerned that the UKHTC and UKBA may not have such knowledge and contacts. We would like the Government to provide us with a clear account of how the competent authorities intend to ensure that they are capable of fulfilling this role.. (Paragraph 138)


34.  It is clear that not all—possibly a minority—of recovered victims are provided with safe accommodation. Even fewer appear to be given psychological help or legal advice or, in the case of those clearly entitled to work in the UK, assistance in obtaining another job. What support there is appears to be concentrated in London. We agree with our witnesses that there is an urgent need for more accommodation and other support services, especially outside London and for those trafficked into forced labour. However, without a better estimate of the scale of trafficking in the UK, it is difficult to determine what extra services are needed and where. (Paragraph 144)

35.  We are alarmed by the accounts given by our witnesses and reinforced by anecdotal evidence of traffickers training children to present themselves as unaccompanied asylum seekers in order to be placed in insecure care, often near the port of entry, which the trafficker can persuade or coerce them to leave. In effect, traffickers may be using the care home system for vulnerable children as holding pens for their victims until they are ready to pick them up. (Paragraph 151)

36.  While we do not advocate the, in effect, imprisonment of such children, we were appalled by the ease with which they can leave accommodation. We recognise that one element of the problem is that many have not been identified as victims of trafficking, but we are of the view that no unaccompanied asylum-seeking child should be placed in such a vulnerable situation: all are by definition young, inexperienced, in a strange country, many will be unable to speak English and have little or no knowledge of local customs, and some will be traumatised by the events that led them to flee their home country or by their experiences during their journey to the UK or by both. Moreover, even those identified as victims and given foster care may be placed in unsupervised accommodation once they reach the age of 15 or 16. (Paragraph 152)

37.  ECPAT UK told us that it had repeatedly asked the Government to look into the issue of trafficking victims going missing from local authority care, but a succession of Ministers had refused to treat this group any differently from the other children who go missing from care. While it is regrettable that any child should disappear for a prolonged period or permanently from local authority care, we think that the Government's response does not recognise the peculiar vulnerability of trafficked children—even when these children leave care homes apparently voluntarily, in reality they are being deceived and exploited or are in fear of being kidnapped. We recommend that the Government carry out a specific nationwide study into the number of possible child trafficking victims going missing from care and how this number could be reduced. We intend to return to this subject ourselves in an evidence session to be held later this year. (Paragraph 153)

38.   The existence of a specified person appointed by the local authority to supervise the care of each child could lead to better co-ordination and possibly the provision of extra services for those in need of hard-to-access support. We therefore recommend that such a system be established. However, we cannot see how in practice guardians would reduce the likelihood that victims would abscond or be kidnapped from local authority accommodation. (Paragraph 154)


39.  Investigating, prosecuting and convicting perpetrators of all types of organised crime are difficult—more so for a hidden crime with confused and cowed victims like human trafficking. We therefore understand the low rate of prosecutions for trafficking and we applaud the determination of the police and the CPS to use every legitimate means at their disposal to disrupt this trade and make it difficult and unprofitable for the perpetrators. (Paragraph 160)

40.  However, two disadvantages arise from the 'Al Capone' approach, one perceptual and the other practical. The perceptual disadvantage is that the comparatively low rate of prosecutions for trafficking as such adds to the confusion about the incidence of trafficking in the UK. This may lead some authorities to underestimate the severity of the problem and therefore not to devote sufficient resources to tackling it. The other disadvantage, pointed out to us by ATLeP, is that perpetrators convicted of lesser offences than trafficking (such as living on immoral earnings) receive comparatively short sentences and sometimes are released from prison even before their victims' immigration status has been determined, let alone before the victim has had time safely to re-establish her/himself in the UK or their home country. (Paragraph 161)

41.  These problems, plus inherent justice, lead us to question whether more might be done to improve the chance of successfully prosecuting for trafficking. Victims' willingness and ability to give evidence is central to this. Three factors make it more likely that victims will co-operate. It is essential to convince victims that they will be protected adequately. It is vital to treat them as victims and not as perpetrators of immigration crime. And we agree with both police and NGOs that the provision of safe accommodation for all victims would be a significant step in encouraging them to act as witnesses. (Paragraph 162)

International co-operation

42.  We are disappointed that not all Member States are co-operating as fully with Europol as they could. We urge our fellow Parliamentarians in other countries to put pressure on their governments and law enforcement bodies to provide Europol and, through Europol, other countries with full and timely information, which will increase the likelihood of successful operations against human traffickers. In addition to the benefit of reciprocation, nationally-based operations tend to catch only the last link in the chain, who are often small-time criminals, and not the gang leaders. (Paragraph 173)

43.  Not all EU Member States have taken practical measures to combat trafficking. Simple adoption of good legislation, without any significant attempt to enforce it, is not enough. The case studies dotted through this Report show, among other things, that even those countries that believe they do not have a problem with trafficking may well be on a trafficking route. More likely, given the suspected scale of trafficking into the EU, there is a problem and the national authorities have not yet recognised it. Like the drugs trade, human trafficking is archetypally a transnational crime, and a clear example of where solidarity among Member States would reap considerable benefits to all. (Paragraph 178)

44.  Where source and transit countries are willing to co-operate, there is clearly a readiness on the part of government agencies and NGOs both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe to help run information campaigns, advise and train local police forces and other public officials, and help by information sharing and with joint operations. Where there is no intention by source and transit countries to co-operate, diplomatic pressure is an option, not least pressure from neighbouring countries which may be suffering as transit routes and from an overspill of criminality. It is also not always necessary to have the whole-hearted support of the government: there may be more benefit from working through NGOs, as Europol hinted to us. There also may be more that could be done in the way of pooling information for general use, through Europol and Interpol, by destination countries that have good relations with the less co-operative source countries. (Paragraph 186)

45.  All these solutions require the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development to keep the effort to combat human trafficking as one of their priorities. In general, our witnesses were complimentary about the work of these departments in specific countries. There appears to be scope for extending this work—such as that done in South-East Europe—to more countries. (Paragraph 187)

46.  We recommend the UK Government to take the lead in ensuring that at least once a year the source, transit and destination countries meet together to discuss practical measures to improve the co-ordination of efforts against trafficking, which should supplement the best practice conferences for experts currently held by the EU. These could perhaps be held under the aegis of an organisation not connected to a particular country, such as the International Organisation for Migration. We recommend that an early item on the agenda for such a meeting should be how countries could co-operate more closely with Europol. (Paragraph 188)

Effectiveness of UKHTC

47.  UKHTC has been in existence for only three years and, as many of our witnesses commented, these are still early days to pass judgement on its effectiveness. However, the UK Action Plan placed a huge emphasis on UKHTC's role as a multi-agency body, the central repository of all data on human trafficking, offering strategic and operational support and a 24/7 support line for advice, including on the care of victims. It is therefore disappointing that so many of our witnesses suggested it was not really multi-agency, being dominated by the police and UKBA; that it was not doing much work to produce the badly-needed estimates of the scale of trafficking; that it was not fully aware of the needs and rights of child victims; and that recent operations and individual cases had shown a lack of clarity in responsibilities and a failure to give useful advice on the support available for suspected victims. UKHTC has, however, worked hard on awareness-raising and training of the police and immigration officials, has run the public 'Blue Blindfold' campaign, has widened the focus to labour exploitation as well as sexual exploitation and has successfully involved a number of NGOs in training and in anti-trafficking operations. It is probably unrealistic to expect too much of so young an organisation which, moreover, has only about 30 staff. However, we recommend that the Government and the leadership of UKHTC look carefully at the criticisms of the organisation made by our witnesses to see whether UKHTC needs to rebalance its efforts. We ask the Government to report progress made to us by the end of March 2010. (Paragraph 189)

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