|Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill
Angela Eagle: That is not an offence under immigration legislation, so to fall foul of the law, the hon. Gentleman's little arrangement in the US would have to be importing people into Britain.
This is a stopgap power, in advance of the much wider rewriting of the law on sexual offences and the arrangements that we expect to see in the forthcoming criminal justice legislation. The power is taken in this Bill, so that we can begin to deal with some of the current problems. I hope that hon. Members realise that we are committed to implementing the European Union framework decision, and that we will be looking to the wording in future Bills. For now we think that it is important to have an offence on the statute book that is understood by the courts, albeit that it is a stopgap measure.
Mr. Gerrard: I appreciate the Minister's point that this is a stopgap measure, and that we need an offence on the statute book. I hope, however, that when the negotiation is finished on the EU framework and we are considering future legislation, we will ensure that the wording is consistent. If we are trying to deal with this problem across the EU, as we should, it is pointless to negotiate wording and definitions at EU level and then not to use them.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Column Number: 348
Simon Hughes: I beg to move amendment No. 333, in page 59, line 4, at end insert
This probing amendment deals with the other side of the prostitution debatethe victims. I am referring to the people who come or are brought here, who are subject to coercion and who may then be abandoned and left in a vulnerable position. The amendment is designed to discover the Government's view on whether people who have been victimised and horribly traumatised by being dragged across Europe or the world and then left will be allowed to apply for exceptional or indefinite leave to remain, on the basis that this may be the only place where some of them are safe.
Over the years, I have met African women at my surgeries who would find it culturally impossible to return to their original community. It is known that they were taken away for the purpose of prostitution. They may or may not have been married. In no circumstances can they contemplate returning to their community. I have met some women who were in an extremely desperate mental and emotional state, because they feared that they would be sent back to communities in which, for religious and cultural reasons, they would not survive. I put it as bluntly as that.
The amendment is designed to discover the Government's policy. If we can rescue people, as we hope to, from the grip of those who exploit them, and they have family here or another network of support, it as our obligation to work through with them the best way to proceed and, if necessary and possible, give them the opportunity to stay here. I do not pretend that the amendment's wording is perfect; it is merely an attempt to raise the plight of the victims of a trade that we are all keen to address. I hope that the Minister is sympathetic to the idea behind the amendment.
Mr. Gerrard: The amendment ties in with the question of how we encourage victims to give evidence. There has been a tendency, particularly in police raids in London in which women have been swept up from flats in Soho, for all those arrested to be deported. If that is the only consequence of giving evidence, it will inevitably be that much more difficult to encourage some victims to do so. Such evidence is sometimes critical in obtaining the conviction of those responsible. It may be asking too much for the Government to give a blanket agreement on such cases, because a wide variety of circumstances will arise, but I hope that they are prepared to consider victims' circumstances so that such people are not automatically threatened with deportation.
Angela Eagle: I hope that I can reassure the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey that his amendment is unnecessary, because there is nothing to prevent victims who have been trafficked
Column Number: 349from seeking leave to remain. A procedure exists for victims of trafficking to be granted leave on a discretionary basis in appropriate cases that fall outside the categories and the immigration laws. We prefer to keep it that way, simply because we do not wish to create specific statutory protection for those who are trafficked, which might perversely lead to more people being trafficked in order to qualify for leave to remain. We consider sympathetically, case by case, whether someone has been a victim of that appalling trade. Such people may wish to give evidence or be unable to return home, for the reasons given by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey from his constituency casework. We have the appropriate leeway to grant different forms of protection to enable victims to stay.
We are also working with other organisations to develop a best practice guide on trafficking for immigration officers, police and others who deal with perpetrators and victims of trafficking, so that they can treat victims more appropriately. We need to understand that the offence is not smuggling but trafficking for sexual exploitation, and that vulnerable, frightened and abused victims must be dealt with accordingly. I hope that with those assurances the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.
Simon Hughes: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation, and to the hon. Member for Walthamstow for his contribution. I was not seeking to create a special category, and I agree that making one could have the perverse consequence of more victims being trafficked. I am grateful that the Government will continue to consider cases compassionately according to the individual circumstances. I hope that between we can us convey to victims, who have committed a criminal offence if they are prostitutes, that they may be exempt from prosecution if they come forward, and may be given personal support and possibly citizenship, nationality, entitlement to stay or protection, depending on their circumstances.
I am encouraged by the Government's position. All hon. Members want to work to overcome the problem and to assist victims as much as possible. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Simon Hughes: Given that the Minister said that the measure was temporary, I hope that it may be included in the sexual offences legislation, which is in the pipeline. That is the right place for it.
Angela Eagle: The hon. Gentleman is not wide of the mark.
Question put and agreed to.
Column Number: 350
Clause 113 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 114 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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