Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - United Kingdom

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 4 June 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - United Kingdom, 4 June 2008, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
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.


The United Kingdom (U.K.) is a destination and, to a lesser extent, transit country for women, children, and men trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Some victims, including minors from the U.K., are also trafficked within the country. Migrant workers are trafficked to the U.K. for forced labor in agriculture, construction, food processing, domestic servitude, and food service. Source countries for trafficking victims in the U.K. include Lithuania, Russia, Albania, Ukraine, Malaysia, Thailand, the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), Nigeria, and Ghana. According to some NGO sources, in 2007 there was an increase in women identified as trafficked from both Nigeria and the P.R.C. for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Unaccompanied minors, including girls from the P.R.C., were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. British police estimate that up to 4,000 trafficked persons, primarily women, are being exploited in the U.K. at any given time. Law enforcement operations increasingly reveal a large percentage of the trafficking problem in the U.K. occurs hidden in residential areas throughout the country.

The Government of the United Kingdom fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Over the last year, U.K. authorities continued to launch aggressive anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts to uncover trafficking and identify victims.

Recommendations for the U.K.: Adopt and implement formal procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied minors, women arrested for prostitution and immigration violations, and undocumented migrants; provide systematic and specialized care for child trafficking victims; continue to expand shelter and assistance capacity to meet the needs of all victims found; and establish a mechanism to systematically collect and analyze comprehensive law enforcement data, including data on victims.


The U.K. Government continued its proactive law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking though its conviction rate for trafficking offenders decreased significantly during the reporting period. The U.K. prohibits all forms of trafficking through its 2004 Sexual Offenses Act and its 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, which prescribe penalties of a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment, although the specific punishments prescribed for sex trafficking are less severe than those prescribed for rape. In 2007, the government launched Pentameter II, a large scale operation aimed at rescuing victims, disrupting trafficking networks, developing intelligence and raising public awareness. In 2007, the government reported it initiated prosecutions involving at least 52 suspected trafficking offenders Although the government reported 75 ongoing prosecutions during the previous reporting period, it convicted only 10 trafficking offenders in 2007, a significant decrease from 28 convictions obtained in 2006. Sentences imposed on convicted trafficking offenders in 2007 ranged from 20 months' to 10 years' imprisonment, with an average sentence of four years. In January 2008, police arrested 25 members of Romanian organized crime organizations using Romanian children, including a baby less than a year old, as pickpockets and in begging schemes.


The government demonstrated sustained efforts, but mixed results in its protection efforts in 2007. U.K. police referred 259 trafficking victims to one service-providing organization for shelter and assistance. The government began piloting a national referral mechanism as part of Pentameter II to improve identification for all potential trafficking victims in the U.K. While it continued to provide care for adult women trafficked for sexual exploitation, not all identified trafficking victims received necessary care and protection. Out of 888 adult women victims referred to its specialized trafficking shelter, only 181 victims were accommodated by the limited-capacity facilities, with an additional 141 assisted on a non-resident basis only. Some of the remaining 566 victims who were not accommodated at the shelter did not meet all of the government's criteria for admission. Victims must be over 18; involved in prostitution within 3 months of referral; willing to cooperate in the prosecution of their traffickers; and must have been trafficked into the U.K. from abroad. Victims who did not meet these criteria were reportedly referred to other social service agencies, NGOs, or to their respective embassies. The government continued to provide significant funding for its specialized shelter and in 2007 provided an additional $200,000 to the $4.8 million grant it awarded in 2006. The government continued to encourage victims to assist in trafficking investigations and prosecutions.

Police rescued a number of children from exploitation during the reporting period; however, NGOs and international organizations continue to express serious concerns regarding the government's ability to protect children from traffickers in the U.K. In a limited 2007 study that revealed 80 reported cases of known or suspected child trafficking to the U.K. in the previous three years, some 60 percent of victims were found to have disappeared from social services centers. Another study conducted by the government in 2007 identified a minimum of 330 individual cases of children trafficked into the U.K. While the U.K. government stipulates that victims are not inappropriately incarcerated, fined or penalized for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked, some victims reportedly were charged and prosecuted for immigration offenses in 2007. One victim who managed to escape from her trafficker during the reporting period was repeatedly imprisoned on immigration violations, according to media sources. The U.K. government did not provide systematic and specialized victim care for adult victims of labor trafficking. The U.K. provides foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution. According to NGOs, however, this process continues to be cumbersome and inconsistent for victims seeking such alternatives. By filing asylum, humanitarian protection or extraordinary relief claims on a case-by-case basis, such victims may obtain residency.


The government continued to demonstrate strong leadership to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. In December 2007, it launched a "Blue Blindfold" public awareness campaign in 12 major cities, including posters, a public service TV advertisement and notices on buses in high-risk areas. In 2007, the government finalized a national action plan on trafficking, including projects to reduce demand. The government awarded a grant to one NGO to develop training on child trafficking in 2007 and provided funding for the development of an advice line on child trafficking for front-line care-givers. To combat demand for commercial sex acts, police conducted outreach to "clients" of the sex trade and provided information on how to report possible victims of trafficking, and some localities implemented a "name and shame" program for those vehicles seen trolling such areas. Police and immigration officials distributed brochures about trafficking during the reporting period, including information on where victims can go for assistance. The Ministry of Defense provided anti-trafficking training to U.K. nationals deployed abroad for international peacekeeping missions in 2007. To combat child sex tourism, the government retained a registry of known pedophiles that required them to report any planned foreign travel before departure. The government sustained cooperation with Interpol in sharing intelligence with other countries in order to intercept known sex offenders; several cases are pending.

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