Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - United Kingdom

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 14 June 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - United Kingdom, 14 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c1883b92d.html [accessed 29 July 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 trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor, including involuntary domestic servitude. Some UK children are trafficked internally for the purpose of prostitution, and foreign unaccompanied minors continue to be forced to beg or steal. Migrant workers are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, food processing, domestic service, and food services. There are reports that domestic workers are subjected to forced labor by diplomats in the UK, primarily from Saudi Arabia and UAE; these workers cannot change their employer without losing their immigration status, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, and their employers are often immune from prosecution. Children, mostly from Vietnam and China, continued to be subjected to debt bondage by Vietnamese organized crime gangs for forced work on cannabis farms. Reports continue to indicate a large-scale trafficking problem in Scotland; the government has not convicted any trafficking offenders within this territory. Further, inadequate protection measures for victims continue to result in their re-trafficking throughout the UK.

There is continued anecdotal evidence that trafficking may occur, though not on a large scale, in some UK territories such as Bermuda. Reportedly, migrant workers are employed in Bermuda under a strict system of government work permits obtained by employers on behalf of their foreign employees. This system may render migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking in the construction, hospitality, and domestic service sectors. Some cases reportedly involve employers confiscating passports and threatening workers with debt bondage. Bermuda authorities and NGOs reported victims rarely lodge a formal complaint out of fear of deportation. Reportedly, the Bermuda Industrial Union in 2009 began offering union protection to some migrant workers.

The Government of the United Kingdom fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to take steps to establish a victim-centered response and instituted reforms to reflect the importance of trafficking on its national agenda. Local experts and observers, however, continued to report inadequate and inconsistent protection efforts for trafficking victims in the UK, and the late 2009 closure of the government's specialist anti-trafficking police unit in London raised concerns over prospects for improved anti-trafficking efforts. Furthermore, some experts criticized the UK Border Agency's role as the lead anti-trafficking agency, arguing that its focus on immigration prevented a human rights approach to identifying, protecting and supporting victims of human trafficking. During the reporting period, however, the government stepped up its anti-trafficking training efforts to improve national and local authorities' response to trafficking victims in the United Kingdom.

Recommendations for the United Kingdom: Take greater steps to ensure that victims are not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; ensure all trafficking victims are provided access to specialized services and safe accommodation; continue to improve protections for men who are victims of forced labor; improve protections for British children as well as unaccompanied minor asylum seekers who are victims of trafficking and take steps to reduce their vulnerability to trafficking; and continue to vigorously prosecute and convict all trafficking offenses, including forced labor and involuntary domestic servitude.

Prosecution

The Government of the United Kingdom sustained strong anti-human trafficking law enforcement efforts during the past year. The UK prohibits all forms of trafficking through its 2003 Sexual Offenses Act and its 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, which prescribe penalties of a maximum of 14 and 10 years' imprisonment respectively, though the specific punishments prescribed for sex trafficking are less severe than those prescribed for rape. In December 2009, the government passed the Coroners and Justice Act to criminalize slavery explicitly; according to a local expert, interpretations of current law tend to emphasize cross border movement versus the condition of involuntary servitude. In order to use the 2003 and 2004 trafficking laws, authorities must prove a double intent to both transport and exploit victims before they arrive in the UK. Despite these legal challenges, concerted law enforcement efforts to investigate trafficking within the Roma communities in the UK and Romania resulted in the government's first convictions for child trafficking in October 2009. The government reported it convicted 31 trafficking offenders for sexual exploitation under its Sexual Offenses Act and convicted two offenders for forced labor under its Asylum and Immigration Act in 2009, an increase over the 23 convictions achieved in 2008. The average length of imposed sentences on the 31 convicted offenders was 4.4 years. The UK reported convicted traffickers serve longer terms as a result of additional convictions for other related offenses. An NGO specializing in care of migrant domestic workers in the UK reported that, out of 22 trafficking victims who chose to report their abuse to authorities since May 2008, only four were investigated as trafficking crimes. In February 2010, a spokesman for the police announced an increased focus to uncover more cases of forced labor.

Despite a year-long lobbying effort by stakeholders to prevent its disbandment, the UK government's specialist Metropolitan Police anti-trafficking unit was closed in late 2009 after operating for two years; the UK government citing a lack of funding behind its closure. The unit, comprised of approximately 11 officers, was the only specialist team solely dedicated to investigating human trafficking in the country. According to media reporting and NGOs, the unit received praise from former survivors of trafficking for its victim-centered approach and sensitivity shown to them. For continuity and expertise, the UK government added some officers from the disbanded specialist unit to a new Clubs and Vice team designated to address trafficking abuses.

Protection

The UK government improved its capacity to identify and protect victims in 2009. In April, the UK initiated a National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which included a 45-day reflection period for potential trafficking victims. The government identified 527 trafficking victims through its NRM between April and December 2009; the UK Border Agency and police identified the majority of victims. Some local observers, however, reported the government did not effectively refer victims through the NRM. According to an Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group consisting of NGOs and international organizations, the NRM lacked coordination, did not ensure adequate oversight of individual cases and failed to meet the needs of victims of forced labor and involuntary domestic servitude. Furthermore, the government failed to provide safe accommodation for some victims identified through the NRM; despite being officially recognized as trafficking victims, the government housed 27 victims in an immigrant detention center and 22 victims in prison or in a young offenders' institution in 2009.

The government provided significant funding for its specialized shelter for adult women trafficking victims, awarding it $5.7 million for the two-year period of 2009- 2011. The government expanded funding to this NGO to extend its assistance to women subjected to involuntary domestic servitude. The NGO was able to expand its capacity to 54 and to assist an increased number of trafficking victims during the last year. Overall, the shelter assisted 260 trafficking victims in 2009; ninety-six women were provided with shelter and 164 were supported on an outreach basis. Some of the victims who were not accommodated at the shelter did not meet all of the government's strict criteria 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, if a victim escapes before exploitation occurs, she cannot receive accommodation.

The government did not provide specialized protections to trafficked children or British nationals subjected to forced prostitution in 2009, but it reported providing some services to these victims through trained local authorities. The government reported it referred 88 children through the NRM between April and December 2009; 81 were accommodated by local authorities. However, anecdotal reports indicate that NRM case authorities with significantly less expertise can undermine local authorities' decision making over a child's safeguarding. The government publicly acknowledged in 2009 that some rescued children placed in the care of local authorities may be vulnerable to their traffickers; it reported conducting a review in 2009 to improve the handling of rescued children. Although the government has not established comprehensive services for male victims, it provided accommodation and support to 68 people identified as victims of forced labor, including men. The government also invested $464,000 to develop flexible support services for victims of labor trafficking and allocated some funding to an NGO to offer some support and limited safe accommodation to forced labor victims.

The government encouraged victims to assist in trafficking investigations and prosecutions and reported it provided a 45-day reflection period and 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, some identified victims of trafficking continued to be charged and prosecuted for immigration offenses. The government published updated legal guidance in March 2009 to emphasize the role of the prosecutor in identifying potential trafficking victims who may have committed crimes while under duress or coercion by their traffickers. It 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 continued to criticize this process as cumbersome and inconsistent. According to a February 2010 Human Rights Watch Report, some trafficking victims applying for asylum continue to be routed through a "fast track" asylum system. This report noted the process is not equipped to deal with complex trafficking cases, nor does it allow adequate time for a victim to recover and to explain case circumstances to an immigration official before deportation.

Prevention

The UK government sustained trafficking prevention efforts throughout the year. The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Center (UKHTC) 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. The UKHTC's national referral mechanism tracks and publicly releases quarterly referral statistics broken down by nationality, gender, type of exploitation and age, improving anti-trafficking information in the United Kingdom. The UKHTC reported it chaired quarterly working level meetings in 2009 to share operational best practices and disseminated relevant intelligence on trafficking. The government provided $2.47 million for the UKHTC's activities during 2009- 2010. The government also updated its National Action Plan on trafficking in 2009, which included measures to prepare for the potential expected increased demand for exploited labor and forced prostitution during and leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The government continued its "Blue Blindfold" awareness campaign to encourage more reporting of suspected trafficking within local communities. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Justice produced a leaflet published in ten languages to introduce the NRM framework for practitioners who may come into contact with trafficking victims. In 2009, in partnership with local NGOs, the Met police unit produced a video resource for police that contains excerpts from victims about their experience with law enforcement as well as case workers explaining the process of trafficking and exploitation. It provided anti-trafficking training to UK troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2009.

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