1. In this Report we consider one of the most serious
human rights issues in the modern world, human trafficking, which
in recent years has brought to the heart of Western societies,
the UK included, a new and pernicious form of slavery inflicting
suffering on many thousands of people across the world.
2. The phenomenon of human trafficking, which takes
a variety of forms, is first and foremost a criminal activity
perpetrated against its victims. As we explain in this Report,
however, it also engages a number of crucial human rights obligations
which apply to the policies and practices adopted by Governments
to combat trafficking and afford protection to the victims of
trafficking. Appropriate legal and policy responses to human trafficking
have been under detailed consideration by international organisations
over the last decade or so, and this consideration has resulted
in the adoption of a number of international instruments, notably
by the UN, the European Union and the Council of Europe, defining
human trafficking and setting out the standards to be observed
by member states in combating it.
3. Within this context, at national level Governments
have been fashioning their own responses to trafficking, normally
encompassing legislation to create specific criminal offences
of trafficking and to provide protection to victims. One of the
main purposes of this Report is to assess the extent to which
the response made so far by the UK Government has satisfied the
human rights obligations by which it is currently bound. At the
same time, we are aware that UK policy and practice in relation
to trafficking is continually under review and development. In
particular, the Government has recently consulted on a UK Action
plan to tackle human trafficking, and intends to produce a final
Action Plan later this year (see paragraphs 9 and 10 below).
4. The Government's consultation
on its Action Plan did not formally ask for respondents' views
on whether the UK should sign the Council of Europe Convention
on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings,
though it did seek views on the provision of reflection periods
and residence permits to victims of trafficking, two of the core
provisions of that Convention, and in that context a large number
of respondents took the opportunity to urge the Government to
sign up to the Convention. In this Report we consider the provisions
of the Convention relating to protection of victims in some detail,
and weigh the evidence for and against the Government's current
concern that those provisions could act as "pull" factors
to the UK, thus exacerbating the problem of trafficking.
As we announced in our call
for evidence of 19 October 2005, our Report also considers more
generally whether or to what extent ratification of the Convention
by the UK would enhance human rights protection in relation to
human trafficking, and assesses the changes to law, policy and
practice which would be necessary in order to ratify and successfully
implement the Convention.
5. First, in Chapter 2 of this Report, we describe
the most significant extant human rights standards applicable
to human trafficking, structured in accordance with the three
principal obligations imposed upon states
to prohibit and prevent trafficking and related
to investigate, prosecute and punish
to protect victims of trafficking.
In Chapter 3 we explain the main provisions of the
Council of Europe Convention relating to the protection of victims
of trafficking. This Convention has not yet come into effect.
Chapter 4 sets out the available evidence on the scale and nature
of the problem of human trafficking in the UK, and in Chapter
5 we consider current UK legislation and policy on the prohibition
and prevention of trafficking, and the enforcement of the law
against traffickers. In Chapter 6 we focus on UK practice on the
protection of trafficking victims, and also give a comparative
account of the different approach adopted by Italy to this matter,
primarily in the context of the protection of victims. The discussions
we held during our visit to Italy made a profound impression on
our thinking about the best ways to address human trafficking,
and the lessons we learnt resonate through the rest of this Report.
In this Chapter we also consider the impact which signing up to
the Council of Europe Convention would have on UK policy on protection
of victims within the context of its anti-trafficking strategy.
Finally, in Chapter 7, we set out our principal conclusions and
6. One consistent thread runs through our consideration
in this Report of the different aspects of human trafficking in
the UK. That is the question of whether the Government has got
the human rights balance right in its attempt to reconcile the
various objectives of enforcing the law against traffickers, preventing
trafficking and illegal immigration when it is associated with
trafficking, and protecting the victims of trafficking. As we
explain in the rest of this Report, it is our firm belief, based
on the evidence we have received, that the Government needs to
reconsider the balance it has struck between these different imperatives.
We are encouraged by our further belief that the Government is
also committed to achieving the best possible balance in its overall
policy to combat trafficking, grounding that policy in human rights
standards, and has an open mind about how this can best be achieved.
7. Written evidence received in our inquiry is published
as Appendices to this Report. We also publish with this Report
the transcripts of oral evidence we took. In addition to this
formal oral evidence, we held informal meetings with representatives
of Reflex and the Metropolitan Police's Clubs and Vice Unit at
the start of our inquiry, and visited the offices of the Eaves
Housing for Women Poppy Project, where we met and talked to project
staff and two Eastern European women victims of trafficking for
sexual exploitation who were being supported by the project. Italy
is often cited as a country which has adopted best practice in
its policy on human trafficking, and in June we visited Rome and
Venice where we had discussions with central Government Ministers
and officials, as well as with local government officials and
NGOs running support schemes for trafficking victims, along with
others. We are most grateful to all those who assisted us in the
course of our inquiry.
8. Two specialist advisers assisted us in this inquiry:
Dr Vanessa Munro of King's College London and Dr Tomoya Obokata
of Queen's University Belfast. We record our gratitude to them
as well for their assistance.
The Government's consultation
on a UK Action Plan
9. As mentioned above, in parallel with our inquiry,
but as an entirely separate exercise, the Home Office launched
on 5 January 2006 a national consultation exercise on proposals
for a UK Action Plan on Human Trafficking.
Such Action Plans have been recommended by international organisations
including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE). The Home Office
has been considering what elements should be included in the Action
Plan, particularly in the areas of (a) prevention, (b) investigation,
law enforcement and prosecution, and (c) protection and assistance
to victims. During the consultation period, approximately 200
individuals and organisations both within and outside the UK responded,
and in June 2006, the Home Office published a follow-up report
which contains a summary of responses received. 
The following is the list of key points raised:
- The National Action Plan lacks
a human rights focus.
Trafficking should be seen not merely as an organised immigration
crime, but also as a grave violation of fundamental human rights.
The human rights of victims should be at the core of UK response
- The National Action Plan must pay special attention
to children and young people who are trafficked, and also incorporate
a gender perspective.
- The National Action Plan is not legally binding,
so it is difficult to hold authorities accountable in case of
- The National Action Plan must be as detailed
as possible. It should contain specific timeframes for implementation,
allocation of resources and division of labour.
- There needs to be a stronger
emphasis on demand reduction and tackling the causes of trafficking
in the National Action Plan.
- The National Action Plan should promote research
and intelligence gathering focused not only on source states,
but also on the UK itself. The Government needs to understand
what makes the UK an attractive destination and what deters traffickers
from using other countries.
- The National Action Plan must include effective
training and awareness raising programmes both within UK and abroad,
in co-operation with NGOs and other concerned partners.
Investigation, Law Enforcement and Prosecution
- Protection of the human rights
of victims should be at the core of law enforcement in the UK.
- The National Action Plan should promote effective
co-ordination and co-operation among competent authorities and
with NGOs and other members of civil society to avoid duplication
of effort and expenditure.
Protection and Assistance to Victims
- The National Action Plan fails
to provide the minimum standards of care and protection that the
Council of Europe Convention would provide.
- The National Action Plan should promote a nation-wide
victim protection/support system, including effective identification
and referrals, for all victims of trafficking.
- The National Action Plan does not touch upon
longer term protection of victims.
10. In addition to these main points, the respondents
proposed a number of other recommendations in order to improve
the current UK response to trafficking. We welcome the Government's
consultation on its National Action Plan to combat human trafficking,
and urge the Government to take the responses to that consultation
on board in order to promote an effective human rights approach
to combating trafficking. While this Report is not a formal response
to the Government's consultation, many of our conclusions and
recommendations, as will be seen, mirror those submitted to the
Government during that consultation. We expect the conclusions
and recommendations contained in this Report to be given serious
consideration by the Government when it decides the contents of
that Action Plan.
1 Council of Europe Treaty Series/197. Henceforth "Council
of Europe Convention" or "Convention". Back
Appendix 1, para 67 Back
In this sense this Report reflects our recent undertaking to report
on human rights treaties before their ratification, if they raise
any significant issues of which Parliament should be aware (Twenty-third
Report of Session 2005-06, The Committee's Future Working Practices,
HL Paper 239/HC 1575, para.68). Back
"Punish" is the word used in some places in the relevant
instruments. We do not consider this word to mean necessarily
anything beyond bringing traffickers to justice and imposing sanctions. Back
Tackling Human Trafficking - Consultation on Proposals for
a UK Action Plan, Home Office and Scottish Executive, January
Appendix 1, para. 4 Back
Tackling Human Trafficking - Summary of responses to the Consultation
on Proposals for a UK Action Plan, Home Office and Scottish
Executive, June 2006 Back
Ibid., p.7 Back
Ibid., p.9 Back
Q 31 [Ms. Patel] Back
Tackling Human Trafficking - Summary of responses, op.cit.
, p.14. Back
Ibid., p.8. Back
Ibid., p.10. Back
Ibid., pp.10-11. Back
Ibid., pp.13-14. Back
Q 66 [Ms. Joshi] Back
Tackling Human Trafficking - Summary of responses, op.cit.,
p. 12. Back