Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Kingdom

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Kingdom, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c86c.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

UNITED KINGDOM (Tier 1)

The United Kingdom (UK) is a destination country for men, women, and children primarily from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude. Authorities reported that victims continued to be forced to commit benefit fraud and other forms of coerced criminality. Unaccompanied migrant children in the UK represent an especially vulnerable group for trafficking. Some UK children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Migrant workers in the UK are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, food processing, domestic service, nail salons, and food services. According to a 2011 report issued by an NGO that assists migrant domestic workers, domestic workers in diplomatic households were vulnerable to trafficking and abuse, including acts of violence and coercion. However, during the reporting period, it was not clear what actions, if any, the government took to address the treatment of domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats posted in the UK. Children and male adults, mostly from Vietnam and China, continued to be forced and coerced to work on cannabis farms; however, according to a 2011 UK police report, the number of cases involving Vietnamese children decreased slightly from the last reporting period, likely as a result of tougher law enforcement targeting these farms. According to UK officials, Nigeria, China and Vietnam continued to be the top three source countries for trafficking victims found in the UK; however, authorities identified trafficking victims from over 36 countries in 2011. UK men were subjected to forced labor within the UK and in other countries in Europe during the year. During the year, Scottish police reported an increase in unaccompanied and trafficked children arriving from Afghanistan and Iraq. Experts report trafficking increased in Northern Ireland during the reporting period; trafficking victims are often moved by traffickers between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Government of the United Kingdom fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The Government of the United Kingdom continued to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders. The transparent nature of the UK government and the significant level of information available allowed NGOs and the government to make comprehensive, candid assessments of the UK's anti-trafficking efforts during the year. The majority of prosecutions and convictions for trafficking offenders continued to take place in England; however, authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland secured their first convictions for human trafficking in 2011. The national government continued to vigorously prosecute trafficking offenders, and authorities increased implementation of the 2009 anti-slavery law and prosecution of forced labor offenses. The UK government began implementing a new anti-trafficking strategy and continued to implement its National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to identify and refer victims for care. Anti-trafficking experts, however, continued to report inadequate protections for child trafficking victims. They also reported serious concerns that trafficking victims were inadvertently deported, or otherwise penalized as offenders during the year. Late in the reporting period, the government amended its regulations to prohibit all migrant workers in the UK from changing employers.

Recommendations for the United Kingdom: Ensure that trafficking victims, including children coerced into criminal activity, are not penalized for acts committed as a result of their trafficking; ensure that law enforcement priorities to combat organized crime are effectively balanced with a victim-centered response to protect trafficking victims; conduct an assessment to determine why more non-EU trafficking victims are not officially recognized as trafficking victims despite the significant number of potential non-EU trafficking victims referred via the NRM; consider requiring incoming domestic workers, including those employed by foreign diplomats, to be interviewed in private to ensure they are familiar with their rights and protections in the UK; continue to train law enforcement and the legal community in the UK on the slavery-based approach of the 2009 Act, which explicitly criminalizes slavery and forced labor without the precondition of smuggling; establish a system of guardianship for children who are extremely vulnerable to trafficking; share technical expertise and training to raise awareness and improve the law enforcement and victim protection response in UK overseas territories; and appoint a rapporteur or similar mechanism in each region to make self-critical assessments and improve the UK's anti-trafficking results.

Prosecution

The Government of the United Kingdom continued to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; during the year it began implementation of its slavery statute to investigate and prosecute forced labor crimes. The UK prohibits all forms of trafficking through its 2009 Coroners and Justice Act, 2003 Sexual Offenses Act, and its 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, which prescribe penalties of a maximum of 10, 14, and 14 years' imprisonment, respectively. The sentence for sex trafficking is commensurate with that available for other serious crimes. The 2009 Coroners and Justice Act explicitly criminalizes slavery without a precondition of smuggling into the UK. Human trafficking offenses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are governed by the 2003 Sexual Offenses Act, the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act and the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act. The UK Home Office leads the anti-trafficking response in England and Wales, in Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Department of Justice leads, and in Scotland trafficking issues are handled by the Scottish police.

The national government increased implementation of its 2009 anti-slavery law during the year, but has not yet convicted a trafficking offender using this law. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, between April and December 2011, the British government prosecuted 87 offenses of trafficking for sexual exploitation. There were 29 offenses of labor trafficking or other forms of exploitation, prosecuted under the Asylum and Immigration Act; and 11 offenses for slavery and servitude prosecuted under the Coroners and Justice Act. The government did not provide comprehensive sentencing data for convicted trafficking offenders in 2011; however, the government reported the average penalty for convicted trafficking offenders in 2011 was 27.2 months' imprisonment, and the average sentence for non-sex trafficking sentences was 55.2 months. Scotland's human trafficking offenses are prosecuted under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act of 2003, the equivalent of the UK's Sexual Offenses Act. The provisions of the UK's Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 extend to Scotland, as well as the Coroners and Justice Act, the UK's slavery amendment. During the year, an official inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland made ten recommendations to improve Scotland's response to trafficking, including that a comprehensive trafficking law in Scotland harmonize its laws and overall strategy with the rest of the UK. In October 2011, Scotland achieved its first trafficking conviction and sentenced two sex trafficking offenders to three years and four months, and another to 18 months' imprisonment. The offenders reportedly coerced 14 women into forced prostitution through threats of violence in brothels around Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scottish authorities reported other trafficking offenders are convicted under other laws, but did not provide further details on these cases. During the year, country experts noted lenient sentences for trafficking offenses in the UK, in fact, courts in England handed down some significant penalties for trafficking offenders. In March 2012, a court in Birmingham sentenced two trafficking offenders to nine and ten and a half years' imprisonment for subjecting Romanian women to forced prostitution. In October 2011, a British court convicted and sentenced a Bulgarian man to six years for forced prostitution. In another case in March 2012, a court in England convicted a Romanian couple of subjecting a seven-year old Romanian girl to domestic servitude. The man was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison; the woman was sentenced to nine years. In September 2011, British authorities arrested and charged five suspects and initiated prosecution under Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act, which criminalizes slavery. In addition to men from the UK, the traffickers subjected 24 men from Romania, Russia, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania to forced labor at a Travellers' camp in Bedfordshire. In July 2011, the Crown Prosecution Service issued amended legal guidance to prosecutors instructing them not to prosecute trafficking victims for any crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking. During the year, however, a court of appeals affirmed a conviction of an alleged trafficking victim for crimes he committed as a result of his trafficking. In this case, the court affirmed the conviction of a Vietnamese boy for cannabis cultivation, despite disclosing details of coercion, including threats to his life, after he voluntarily consented to be smuggled into the UK. Despite expert evidence presented during court proceedings, including the cannabis factory being locked from the outside, the court found his subsequent exploitation did not amount to forced labor.

Protection

The UK government continued to implement its NRM in identifying and referring to care a significant number of trafficking victims in 2011; however, anti-trafficking experts cited ongoing concerns regarding implementation of this mechanism, resulting in unidentified and identified victims being detained, punished, or deported. Furthermore, local experts continued to report an inadequate level of protection for child trafficking victims; a number of rescued children placed in the care of local authorities continued to go missing. The government reported that it proactively identified and referred 294 potential trafficking victims from July through September 2011 through its NRM, which included a 45-day reflection period in 2011. During the reporting period, however, local victim protection experts continued to report flaws in the identification system in the UK. These experts report that their limited role in formal victim identification leads to trafficking victims not being recognized as such and thus criminalized or deported without access to assistance. NGOs criticized a narrow focus of the NRM on victims' immigration status, reporting that as a result, EU nationals were more likely to receive a "positive grounds conclusion" or otherwise be officially recognized as trafficking victims by UK authorities. According to official data, the most common countries of origin for the 294 NRM referrals included Nigeria, Vietnam, the UK, Slovakia, China, and Uganda. As of January 2012, 40 percent, or 117 of the 294 people referred to the NRM, were found to have been trafficked. The most common countries of origin for persons so identified were the UK, Slovakia, Romania and Lithuania. Moreover, NGOs continued to report that UK authorities focused on the credibility of a potential victim too early in the identification process, noting that most victims who have only recently escaped control of their traffickers do not always reveal the truth about their experiences when first questioned; this continued to result in victims' detention and imprisonment, including forced repatriations of trafficking victims, putting them at great risk of hardship or retribution upon their return. Anti-trafficking experts continued to report that many other victims were not referred through the NRM, as victims do not see the benefits of referral, are afraid of retribution by their traffickers, or are fearful of the consequences of being brought to the attention of authorities because of their immigration status. During the year, the Scottish authorities provided the equivalent of $1,182,456 to two NGOs to provide comprehensive services to trafficking victims identified in Scotland. Scottish authorities identified 94 potential trafficking victims; 55 of which received a "positive conclusive decision." According to the Northern Ireland Department of Justice (DOJNI), police identified 50 potential trafficking victims between January and December 2011. DOJNI referred victims into the asylum system and also referred some victims to NGOs for specialized care and assistance. It provided funding to two NGOs to provide assistance to victims in 2011.

According to an NGO that has assisted victims of domestic servitude in the residences of diplomats from Africa and the Middle East, UK immigration law does not allow diplomatic domestic workers to change their employer in the UK. During 2011, NGO service providers asked the government to apply the private household domestic worker visa holder regime, which allowed change of employer, to domestic workers in diplomatic households to reduce their dependency on one employer and prevent domestic servitude. Instead, in April 2012, the Home Office announced new rules for all migrant domestic workers in the UK, which now denies all workers the possibility of changing employers. Anti-trafficking experts strongly criticized this move.

The UK government established a new model of victim care under the anti-trafficking strategy it adopted in 2011. It provided approximately the equivalent of $3.14 million to a central government contractor to coordinate provision of care for victims in 2011, an increase in comparison to the $1.45 million previously provided on an annual basis to specialist NGO care providers. Police referred trafficking victims to the central government contractor for care in 2011. Specialist NGO providers reported that the new general contract did not proactively identify victims, but only accepted referrals made by police. Civil society organizations reported the support model is time-bound and victims receive support for only 45 days. Local experts continue to note serious concerns about trafficking victims being criminalized and punished for crimes committed because of coercion. NGO and government reports published during the year noted that trafficked children in the prostitution sector, cannabis cultivation, or who commit petty crimes are often subjected to criminal proceedings instead of recovery and care. Specifically, a 2011 ECPAT Report noted that trafficked children who are forced to cultivate cannabis are not recognized as victims of a crime but are treated as criminals, often prosecuted for drug or immigration offenses. The government encouraged victims to assist in trafficking investigations and prosecutions by offering renewable one-year residence permits to foreign victims who decide to cooperate with law enforcement; it reported granting 48 trafficking victims such permits between April 2009 and March 2011. In that same time period, 162 trafficking victims were granted one-year residency permits due to personal circumstances, including humanitarian protection and discretionary leave. The UK government continued to provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution through asylum procedures.

Prevention

In July 2011, the UK government adopted a new government strategy on trafficking. Some anti-trafficking experts in the UK criticized the strategy for its emphasis on border control. The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Center, under the direction of the Serious Organized Crime Agency, continued to serve as a multi-agency, centralized point for the development of expertise among governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental stakeholders involved in anti-trafficking. Official training programs included mandatory sessions on human trafficking for new police officers. In April 2011, authorities in Northern Ireland completed a three-month Blue Blindfold campaign that targeted approximately 500,000 residents to raise their awareness of trafficking. The government provided anti-trafficking training to UK troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2011.

Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) reportedly was a destination country for sex trafficking and forced labor. The large population of migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica are the most vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, and the estimated 2,000 stateless children and adolescents in TCI are especially at risk, according to local experts. Local stakeholders, including law enforcement officials, reported specific knowledge of sex trafficking occurring in bars and brothels during the reporting period and noted that trafficking-related complicity by some local government officials was a problem. During the previous reporting period, the TCI government initiated anti-trafficking legislation that included measures to improve identification of and assistance for trafficking victims. The absence of specific legislation prohibiting trafficking as defined by the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, the absence of trafficking victim protection procedures and policies, and little public awareness about human trafficking were obstacles to progress during the reporting period, according to local stakeholders and experts.

Bermuda

Migrant workers are employed in Bermuda under a strict system of government work permits obtained by employers on behalf of the foreign workers. There were some reported cases of employers confiscating passports and threatening complaining migrant workers with having to repay the entire cost or the return portion of their airline tickets. Bermuda authorities and NGOs reported victims rarely lodge formal complaints out of fear of deportation. The Bermuda Industrial Union in 2009 began offering union protection to some migrant workers. There was one trafficking victim from Bermuda identified in the United States during the reporting period.

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