A statute which consolidates and clarifies UK law with respect to the prevention of people trafficking, the prosecution of traffickers and protection of trafficking victims. 

As well as ensuring that existing UK law on human trafficking is consolidated into one piece of primary legislation, the Anti Human Trafficking Bill (or Act, as it would become) would also transpose into domestic law the safeguards and rights for victims of people trafficking contained in various international treaties which the UK has ratified. 

Two important treaties which a UK Anti Human Trafficking Bill could transpose are: (1) the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS 197) and (2) the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  The UK has signed and ratified these international instruments on human trafficking, but as yet they cannot be directly enforced by victims in UK courts.

An Anti Human Trafficking Bill would place positive obligations on all public authorities (including local authorities) to prevent human trafficking and protect the victims of human trafficking in so far as their areas of competency permit them to do (e.g. a local authority may have competency in housing, but not in investigating and prosecuting trafficking – which is within the competency of the Police and CPS).  A key obligation might be that public bodies have a legal duty to work in strategic partnership with appropriate civil society organisations in the fight against people trafficking.

An Anti Human Trafficking Bill would create in domestic law specific and fully justiciable rights which would ensure the protection of those identified as victims of human trafficking, especially children and women. At a minimum, these rights would mirror those contained in the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS 197, above).  A victim would be able to enforce these rights in UK courts where public bodies failed to fulfill them.  In creating justiciable rights, all public bodies would be compelled to raise awareness of such rights amongst their employees, and civil society organisations would be empowered to better represent the needs of victims in the context of rights which are available in the domestic legal system.

An Anti Human Trafficking Bill would also ensure that the definition of Human Trafficking, as provided for in the UN Trafficking Protocol (above) and CETS 197 (above), is enshrined in UK law, thus reducing any confusion as to the nature of people trafficking.  The definition reads (Article 4 CETS 197):

Trafficking in human beings shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

Further, rather than regarding human trafficking as a transnational phenomenon, a UK Anti Human Trafficking Bill would recognise that people trafficking within nations (internal trafficking) is an increasing issue, and therefore such Bill would not make the error of approaching human trafficking as an exclusively immigration related crisis.  Therefore, together with the above definition of human trafficking, a UK Anti Human Trafficking Bill would use the CETS 197 definition of a victim of human trafficking, which is:

"Victim" shall mean any natural person who is subject to trafficking in human beings as defined in this article. (Article 4, Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings).

A UK Anti Human Trafficking Bill could also build upon the Corporate Liability provisions contained under Article 22 CETS 197, by introducing a criminal offence of knowingly importing, exporting or making available to consumers products which are sourced or produced by, or contain ingredients or components sourced or produced by, victims of human trafficking or slavery.  This would demonstrate the UK's commitment to international corporate responsibility, by ensuring that companies operating in the UK are prohibited from being knowlingly complicit in the international crime of human trafficking.

 

 

 

 

Why is this idea important?

"William Wilberforce headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years before the Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807. His later campaigning resulted in the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire.

Over 200 years later, Trafficking in Human Beings is in the premier league of organised crime. The three most lucrative criminal activities in the world are the trafficking of Humans, Guns and Drugs. Men, women and children of all nationalities are victims.

And it is happening right now, not just in cities but in towns and villages across the country."

The United Kingdom led the way in the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century.  Now it's time to respond to the crisis of slavery again – but this time slavery is not a state sponsored activity, but an enormous and growing form of barbaric criminal activity.

Human Trafficking has been described by the All-Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking as the 'premier league of organised crime', with it being estimated as the third largest illicit money making activity in the world.  According to the Council of Europe (the international organisation which oversees the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg), trafficking in human beings is the modern form of the old slave trade.  It is distinct from people smuggling in that traffickers treat people as a commodity to be bought and sold, to be put to forced labour usually in the sex industry, but also in agriculture and undeclared sweatshops.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 2.5 million human trafficking victims in Europe alone, of which 42% have been trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation.  Another 32% are estimated to be trapped as forced labourers on farms and in sweatshops and private households (Source: Council of Europe).

The United Kingdom is a destination country for traffickers to bring their victims.  The vast majority of these victims are vulnerable women and children.  Due to the secretive nature of human trafficking it is difficult to know exactly how many people are entrapped by modern day slave masters in this country.  However, the All-Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking estimates that there are at least 10,000 people who have been trafficked into the UK, 1000 of whom are children.

Although the UK legal system recognises human trafficking as both a crime and immigration offence, there is no one piece of legislation (like the Slave Trade Acts of the nineteenth century) which consolidates and clarifies the law in this area.  At present the law in the UK is piecemeal and lacking in clarity, weight and sufficiency.  An Anti Human Trafficking Bill would go some way to remedying this lack of clarification and codification. 

Such a Bill would also allow the UK to lead the way in the global fight against human trafficking.  For instance, the decision by the European Court of Human Rights in January 2010 in Rantsev v Cyprus reveals that Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights now provides positive obligations on public authorities with respect to human trafficking.  Rather than Strasbourg leading the way in this matter, perhaps the UK now has opportunity to take the initiative and lead on this, allowing the UK courts to develop their own body of jurisprudence based upon UK legislation, and build upon the British tradition of fighting against slavery.

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