Laws in the United Kingdom to prevent the trafficking of people

Human Trafficking

What is meant by Human Trafficking?

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.

Is there any legislation in the United Kingdom which deals with this criminal industry?

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.

What are the maximum prison sentences for these human trafficking offences?

Individuals convicted of these offences in relation to human trafficking will be liable for a prison sentence of 14 years.

Why has trafficking for forced labour now being included within the criminal acts?

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.

Have there been any criticisms directed towards the above legislation dealing with human trafficking in England and Wales?

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.

Is there any legislation in the UK which deals with the treatment of the individuals who have been the victims of human trafficking?

In May 2005 the Council of Europe formally adopted the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

What is the purpose of the Convention?

The Convention provides for further legal protection and minimum standards of care for individuals who have been victims of human trafficking.

What is included within the legal protection and minimum standards of care for victims?

The legal protection and minimum standards of care for victims includes the following:

  • A minimum recovery and reflection period
  • Temporary residence permits for those who may be in danger if they return to their country of origin
  • Temporary residence permits for children if it is in their best interests to remain in the UK
  • Access to specialist support, emergency medical care, legal advice and the provision of safe housing

Has the Convention been adopted into UK Law?

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.

Have these measures been successful?

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.

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For more information on:

  • On what basis has the UK Government being criticised?
  • Have there been any other criticisms?
  • Are there any other laws and conventions which deal with the problem of human trafficking?