Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 13:07 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Kingdom

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Kingdom, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee3ac.html [accessed 1 October 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 forced domestic service. Unaccompanied children in the UK represent an especially vulnerable group for trafficking. Some UK children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, and some foreign unaccompanied children continue to be forced to beg or steal. Some migrant workers are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, food processing, domestic service, and food services. Some domestic workers reportedly are subjected to forced labor by diplomats in the UK; there are concerns that these diplomatic employers are often immune from prosecution. Some children, mostly from Vietnam and China, continued to be subjected to debt bondage by Vietnamese organized crime gangs for forced work on cannabis farms. NGOs providing assistance to trafficked women reported a considerable increase in referrals of Ugandan nationals in 2010; Nigerian nationals remain one of the highest percentages of referrals. A recent study conducted by the Association of Chief Police Officers found that a large percentage of women forced into prostitution in England and Wales come from China.

The Government of the United Kingdom fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government demonstrated vigorous prosecutions and convictions of sex trafficking offenders in England, obtaining during the reporting period the highest sentence on record for trafficking in the United Kingdom. The UK government improved its prosecution of forced labor offenses and continued to implement its National Referral Mechanism (NRM). NGOs, however, continued to report inadequate and inconsistent protection efforts for trafficking victims in the UK. Some potential and confirmed trafficking victims, including children, were prosecuted and imprisoned for committing offenses as a direct result of being trafficked. Due to devolution of law enforcement powers to Northern Ireland, Wales, and especially Scotland, each region has its own human trafficking laws and anti-trafficking enforcement powers. Inadequate protection measures for victims in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales could result in their re-trafficking throughout the Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Recommendations for the United Kingdom: Standardize anti-trafficking responses across the UK insofar as possible given devolution of law enforcement powers; train law enforcement and the legal community on the slavery-based approach of the 2009 Act; examine sentencing structures to determine if they appropriately respond to domestic servitude or other labor trafficking situations; improve outreach and training to all front-line responders to ensure potential trafficking victims, including children, are identified as such to prevent their inadvertent punishment or deportation; appoint a victim coordinator in each region to ensure victims identified through the NRM are provided with specialized services and can fully access their rights; take further steps to ensure that confirmed trafficking victims are not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; increase capacity to ensure all trafficking victims are provided access to specialized services and safe accommodation; improve protections for UK-resident child trafficking victims, as well as unaccompanied child asylum seekers who are victims of trafficking; conduct an assessment of forced labor and domestic servitude in the UK and its territories; 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 in each region to make critical assessments and improve the UK's overall anti-trafficking response.

Prosecution

The Government of the United Kingdom continued to vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders. The majority of prosecutions and convictions of trafficking offenders took place in England in 2010; authorities have not convicted an offender for human trafficking in Northern Ireland, Wales, or Scotland. 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 14, 14, and 10 years' imprisonment, respectively. Sentences for sex trafficking differ from those prescribed for rape as the maximum penalty for rape or forcible sexual assault is life imprisonment. The 2009 Coroners and Justice Act explicitly criminalizes slavery without a precondition of smuggling into the UK; according to an NGO, judicial and practitioner interpretations of other anti-trafficking laws in the last decade have gradually modernized away from old notions of cross-border movement in favor of a modern approach that focuses upon the condition of involuntary servitude. The government has not yet prosecuted a trafficking offender using its December 2009 slavery law. According to the Home Office, the British government prosecuted and convicted a total of 35 trafficking offenders between April 2010 and December 2010; this compares with 32 trafficking offenders convicted in 2009. The government convicted a total of 24 sex trafficking offenders under its Sexual Offenses Act or other trafficking-related laws. Traffickers convicted under its Sexual Offenses Act resulted in an average sentence of three years' and eight months imprisonment; sex traffickers convicted under other laws received average sentences of two years and six months'. The government convicted eight traffickers for labor exploitation, two of whom were convicted under its Asylum and Immigration Act; this compares with two offenders convicted for labor exploitation in 2009. Data on sentences given to convicted forced labor offenders were not available.

In January 2011, in a case in which six Romanian women were subjected to forced prostitution in the UK, the government handed down its longest sex trafficking sentence on record of 21 years; the women had been beaten, starved and sexually assaulted, and testified at the trial. In another case, two British nationals were sentenced in January 2011 for a total of 19 years' imprisonment for reportedly forcing approximately 100 children, some as young as 12, into prostitution. In 2011, a retired doctor was convicted under the Asylum and Immigration Act for subjecting her Tanzanian domestic worker to conditions of slavery. She received a two year suspended sentence and served no time in jail; she was ordered to pay her victim $25,000 in compensation.

Protection

The UK government sustained and augmented funding for its efforts to identify and protect victims over the last year. NGOs continued to cite serious concerns over inadequate and inconsistent protection efforts that resulted in unidentified victims being detained, punished, or deported. In 2010, the government identified and referred trafficking victims through its National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which included a 45-day reflection period for potential trafficking victims. The government reported it identified 379 potential victims of sexual and labor exploitation between April 2009 and September 2010; 89 of these potential victims were children. The UK Border Agency and police identified the majority of victims. Authorities rescued 15 trafficking victims in 2010 in Northern Ireland, including three male victims. An Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group noted in a June 2010 report that many victims are not referred through the NRM, as victims either do not view any 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. The Group's report also faulted the NRM for failure to ensure that identified victims were truly referred to special care providers. Furthermore, the NGO report concludes 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. 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.

Between April and December 2010, the government granted a "reasonable grounds" decision for 225 presumed victims and referred them to NGO or government-funded accommodations. NGOs reported that dedicated accommodations for female trafficking victims were not always available due to limited space. Services available for male victims of trafficking were limited. The UK government provided approximately $1.5 million to civil society organizations to accommodate and support adult victims of trafficking in 2010. The government continued to fund an NGO to provide specialized shelter and outreach support for adult women trafficking victims, awarding it $1.45 million for 2010. Overall, the shelter assisted 162 trafficking victims between March and August 2010; these women were provided with shelter or supported on an outreach basis. The government's strict criteria for admission meant that some victims were not accommodated at the shelter. For admission, victims must be over 18 years of age; involved in prostitution or domestic slavery in the UK within three months of referral; willing to cooperate in the prosecution of their traffickers; and must have been trafficked into the UK from abroad. Furthermore, victims in transit who escape their traffickers before actual exploitation occurs cannot receive accommodation.

Local authorities and experts continue to cite significant concerns with the level of protection for child trafficking victims throughout the UK. A number of rescued children placed in the care of local authorities continued to go missing, increasing their vulnerability to being re-trafficked or becoming victims of trafficking. Notably in 2010, Scotland began piloting a model of guardianship for unaccompanied children to help reduce their vulnerability to trafficking. Further, there are continued NGO reports of trafficked children in the prostitution sector, cannabis cultivation, or petty crimes; such children are subjected to criminal proceedings instead of recovery and care. In one particular case, NGOs asserted in a 2010 report that a girl in Scotland was convicted for cannabis cultivation, despite disclosing details of her exploitation to her attorney and an expert report presented during court proceedings about her trafficking experience.

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. While the UK government has a policy of not penalizing victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, there are reports of identified trafficking victims being prosecuted for offenses they committed while under coercion of their traffickers. The UK government continued to provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution through established asylum procedures; some NGOs criticized the process for such alternatives as cumbersome and inconsistent. According to a February 2010 Human Rights Watch Report, some trafficking victims applying for asylum are routed through a "fast track" asylum system, which the report noted is not equipped to deal with complex trafficking cases and does not allow adequate time for a victim to recover and to explain case circumstances to an immigration official before adjudication and possible deportation.

Prevention

The UK government sustained partnerships with civil society to improve its anti-trafficking efforts in 2010. The transparent nature of the UK government and the significant level of information available on the UK allowed NGOs to make comprehensive, candid assessments of the UK's anti-trafficking efforts during the year. During the year, the government conducted a review to assess and revise its overall anti-trafficking strategy; as a result of this review, the government opted in to the 2010 EU directive on trafficking in March 2011. The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Center (UKHTC), now under the direction of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) 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. Operation Golf, a joint investigation team involving 26 Metropolitan Police officers working with over 320 Romanian police to target Romanian organized gangs trafficking children in the UK, concluded in December 2010. The operation resulted in the sharing of best practices between the UK and Romania, and resulted in raids in both countries and the arrest of Romanian child traffickers thought to be responsible for the child prostitution and forced labor – including forced begging – of approximately 168 Romanian children in the UK. Cooperation with other law enforcement agencies also extended to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which participated in a "Train the Trainers" Blue Blindfold course held for the Republic of Ireland law enforcement agency, Garda Síochána. Members of the UK Border Agency, London Metropolitan Police, and Romanian police officers also participated in this training. The government transparently reported on its anti-trafficking efforts and commissioned studies to enhance its understanding of its trafficking problem. In November 2010, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to improve its law enforcement response to trafficking by expanding law enforcement cooperation and anti-trafficking prevention campaigns. This prompted the launch of the Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) Annual Report and Threat Assessment as a tool to research and assess human trafficking in Northern Ireland. Notably, in March 2011, authorities appointed an anti-trafficking coordinator in Wales to monitor anti-trafficking efforts and make recommendations for improvement. The government provided anti-trafficking training to UK troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2010.

Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos reportedly was a destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking. In 2010, some stakeholders reported sex trafficking of Dominican females on the island, some of who may be children. Stakeholders also reported some trafficking for forced labor among the Haitian and Chinese communities. There were no reported cases of forced labor involving children in 2010. Island contacts reported that trafficking-related complicity by some local government officials was a problem. In August 2009, the UK government suspended the territory's self-rule amid widespread allegations of corruption.

During the reporting period, the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) government initiated anti-trafficking legislation that included measures to improve identification of and assistance for trafficking victims. TCI authorities also made progress on a multi-agency action plan to support the new legislation.

Bermuda

Migrant workers are employed in Bermuda under a strict system of government work permits obtained by employers on behalf of the foreign workers. The system may render migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking in the construction, hospitality, and domestic service sectors. Some cases reportedly involved employers confiscating passports and threatening complaining migrant workers with having to repay the entire cost or the return portion of their airline tickets, which may be beyond their means and render them highly vulnerable to debt bondage. Bermuda authorities and NGOs reported victims rarely lodge a formal complaint out of fear of deportation. The Bermuda Industrial Union in 2009 began offering union protection to some migrant workers.

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