Human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour. It is a modern day form of slavery and is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world alongside the illegal arms industry as the second largest behind the illegal drugs trade.
In 2002 the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act was introduced and became law. This Act made the trafficking of people for reasons of prostitution illegal.
Furthermore the legislation was strengthened the following year when the Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduced legislation making trafficking for all forms of sexual exploitation illegal and not simply for prostitution as a crime.
The following year the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act further criminalised human trafficking for all purposes including forced labour.
Since April 2010 individuals who force other individuals into forced labour (slavery or servitude) will be guilty of a criminal offence under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
Individuals convicted of these offences in relation to human trafficking will be liable for a prison sentence of 14 years.
Many people think that human trafficking is simply concerned with trafficking for prostitution, however, many individuals including children are trafficked into the United Kingdom and forced to work in such things as Cannabis farms. Accordingly it is imperative that this is also included within the law.
The above legislation may have criminalised human trafficking. However, there has been criticism as it lacks provision for the care needed by those individuals who have been victims of human trafficking and also runs the risks of treating them as criminals.
In May 2005 the Council of Europe formally adopted the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
The Convention provides for further legal protection and minimum standards of care for individuals who have been victims of human trafficking.
The legal protection and minimum standards of care for victims includes the following:
The Convention has been signed by the United Kingdom and measures were put in place to adopt the protection for the victims of human trafficking in 2009. The UK Human Trafficking centre has also been created to ensure that the obligations under the Convention are adhered to.
During 2010 the measures implemented by the United Kingdom have come under criticism from Amnesty International where it was stated that the UK’s new anti-trafficking measures are not “fit for purpose” and that the government is breaching its obligations under the European Convention against trafficking.
One of the main policies implemented by the UK Government was in relation to the National Referral System to deal with victims of trafficking. However, this has been criticised as potentially flawed and possibly discriminatory.
Furthermore it has been criticised as being operated by UK Border Agency Staff who reportedly put more emphasis on the immigration status of the presumed trafficked persons rather than the alleged crime against them.
The UK Border Agency workers have also been criticised for the apparent lack of understanding of trafficking issues. For example in one case it was felt that despite being forced to undertake sexual activities by individuals holding a woman captive this did not amount to trafficking as the woman failed to escape the individuals holding her. This is felt to be a clear breach of the convention.
Furthermore it has been claimed by Amnesty International that the UK government has lost sight of the key pillars of anti-trafficking which are identification, protection and prevention. It has been argued that there are no meaningful prevention measures being undertaken with prosecutions for traffickers not being sought with the prosecution of possible victims for offences committed under duress taking priority.
The following laws in England and Wales also deal with the problem of human trafficking:
The United Kingdom has also signed and ratified the United Nation’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children which supplements the United Nation Convention against Transnational Organised Crime 2000.
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