Joint Committee On Human Rights Twenty-Sixth Report

5  Prohibition, prevention and law enforcement

Prevention activities


98. The Government funds and implements various programmes in source states for the purpose of prevention. For instance, DfID has provided £8.9 million to the ILO's International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) to deal with child trafficking in South East Asia.[147] The fund was used for awareness-raising, reintegration of victims, education, and other activities. The FCO also communicates with source states such as Bangladesh and India to raise awareness of the danger of trafficking.[148] It has also funded anti-trafficking and capacity building programmes in such countries as Albania, Bosnia and Turkey.[149]

99. For the future, the Government intends to carry out more awareness-raising campaigns and publicise successful UK prosecutions for trafficking offences in source and transit states to send out a clear message to traffickers.[150]

100. While we welcome the efforts being made by the Government in relation to prevention, we consider that the current measures are not sufficient in light of the human rights framework we have described in previous parts of this Report. We suggest the following measures for improvement:

  • In relation to awareness raising programmes, it has been noted that although they address the process of trafficking, many of them do not cover the causes of trafficking, which are often extreme poverty and unemployment.[151] In order to promote a holistic approach which addresses wider issues surrounding trafficking, these awareness-raising programmes should also aim to enhance people's opportunities, and encourage community action and education. In so doing, the Government should communicate with local authorities and community organisations in source states as far as possible, as they are better suited to assess the local needs. Further, the awareness-raising should also include information on how to migrate legally to the UK so that migrants are not exploited by traffickers, and on the rights of migrant workers in the UK.
  • We recognise that UK embassies and consulates in source states have an important role to play in preventing people from being trafficked. They should be more proactive in providing information on the dangers of trafficking so that potential victims have a better idea of what to expect. In order for staff at embassies and consulates to carry out preventive activities, appropriate training and awareness raising should be conducted more rigorously so that they are better able to identify potential and actual victims of trafficking and prevent traffickers from exploiting them.
  • Further, the Government should provide greater technical assistance to law enforcement agencies in source and transit states so that they can detect and tackle trafficking and other organised crimes more effectively.


101. The Government acknowledges that it has focused on supply reduction in the past. However, it has also expressed its commitment to tackle demand and implemented a number of initiatives. For instance, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, created under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, operates a licensing system to discourage employers from exploiting migrants for labour exploitation.[152] In addition, the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 has introduced a civil penalty regime for employers of illegal migrants and an offence of knowingly employing illegal migrants to curb the demand for trafficked people.[153]

102. The Government is aware of the need to change the attitudes and opinion of men who use prostitutes towards prostitutes who may have been trafficked and get the message across that trafficked women are not consenting to sexual activities.[154] In order to address this, it has distributed campaign letters and leaflets to men's magazines and other places under Operation Pentameter.[155] It also intends to publish recommendations for a co-ordinated strategy to deal with the harms caused by the prostitution market, on-street prostitution and exploitation of children, young people and women.[156] In Scotland, the Scottish Executive intends to introduce legislation on street prostitution to curb the demand.[157]

103. Despite the various initiatives already taken by the Government, most of those who submitted evidence were of the view that the current strategy to reduce demand is inadequate. In relation to the reduction of demand for prostitution, for instance, the current strategy was considered to be inadequate as it only targets street prostitution and puts less focus on other forms of prostitution which take place in the UK.[158] The existence of small or "mini" brothels and other establishments such as strip or lap dancing clubs also serves as a pull factor.[159] It is also much easier for girls and women who have been trafficked to be hidden and remain isolated in these establishments. As to labour exploitation, strategies to curb demand will depend on greater understanding of the nature and extent of the problem. Furthermore, it has been argued that there is a culture that is negative towards migrants, making it easier for employers and others to exploit them.[160]

104. Based on the evidence submitted to us, we propose the following measures to be taken by the Government to reduce the demand for trafficked people.

105. An understanding of what makes the UK an attractive destination for trafficking requires an in-depth analysis. The Government must ensure that the research it is currently conducting and its future research effort contributes to a much clearer understanding of demand for trafficked people both for sexual and labour exploitation in the UK, including the reasons why individuals and businesses in the UK continue to seek trafficked people.[161]

106. The Government should also disseminate information obtained through research to those responsible for combating the practice both within and outside the UK so that they can use it as guidance to devise and implement policies to prevent people from falling into the hands of traffickers.

107. There is a need to tackle the culture of exploitation and commercialisation of sex, and attitudes towards women.[162] In this regard, we commend the imaginative publicity techniques employed by Operation Pentameter to change the attitudes of men towards women and raise awareness of the phenomenon of trafficking. However, we recommend the authorities evaluate the effectiveness of these techniques. We recommend that the Government conduct further programmes and awareness-raising campaigns to change the attitudes of the general public towards migrants so that their rights and freedoms are protected.

108. Those who employ trafficking victims should be named publicly so as to prevent potential employers and others from doing the same. The Government should also engage in a dialogue with sectors of the business community which might be at risk of employing migrants illegally. A similar programme exists in Sweden and it has produced some positive results.[163]

109. The minimum wage legislation, as well as measures against illegal employment, should be rigorously enforced to reduce the demand for trafficked workers.[164] The establishment of a single body (such as the Fair Employment Commission) to enforce workers' rights would be a desirable first step.

110. We broadly accept the argument that restrictions on legal entry will not reduce the incidence of trafficking. It has been argued that such restrictions divert migration into illegal channels and therefore increase opportunities for traffickers.[165] As advocated by some,[166] and provided for by Article 5(4) of the Council of Europe Convention, we consider that the development of lawful and managed migration channels, which recognise the essential role that migrant labour plays in the British economy, is an essential part of a successful anti-trafficking strategy. This can prevent the involvement of traffickers and therefore violations of the human rights of victims.

UK legislation to prohibit trafficking

111. The UK has signed and ratified the Trafficking Protocol, and therefore is obliged by international law to implement legislative measures to prohibit trafficking of human beings. As already described, in relation to trafficking for sexual exploitation, the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which came into force on 1 May 2004, established wide-ranging offences of trafficking of people into, within or from the UK for sexual purposes, with a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment. Equivalent Scottish provisions are contained in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. Legislative provision relating to trafficking for labour and organ exploitation is contained in the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, section 4 of which established offences also carrying a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment.

112. In addition to legislation specific to offences of trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation, there are other pertinent laws applicable to trafficking for both sexual and labour exploitation:

113. There are also several provisions in the Children Act 1989 which are relevant to the prohibition of trafficking, and the investigation, prosecution and punishment of traffickers. Section 47, for instance, obliges a local authority to investigate if it has a reasonable cause to believe that a child, who lives or is found in their area, is suffering from harm. Section 49 establishes an offence of knowingly and without lawful authority abducting children. In relation to private fostering, section 67 authorises a local authority to inspect premises used for private fostering, and section 69 grants them the power to prohibit private fostering under certain circumstances.

114. Under the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005, those who plan to foster children privately must notify their local authorities of the arrangements, and local authorities in turn must visit the premises and speak to the foster carers and children. Further, the Children Act 1989 as amended by the Children Act 2004 obliges a local authority to raise awareness of the notification requirements with local communities and to ensure that staff or volunteers encourage notification.


115. The Government considers that the current legislative framework to prohibit trafficking for sexual and non-sexual purposes is in line with the Trafficking Protocol and the EU Framework Decision on Trafficking.[168] In analysing the evidence submitted, we broadly agree that the current framework to prohibit and criminalise trafficking complies with the relevant human rights obligations to prohibit the practice. In relation to sentencing, 14 years' imprisonment is longer than many European counterparts, and therefore the penalty goes further than the regional and international standards.

116. Some specific concerns were however raised in relation to the current legislative framework:

  • Section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 makes it an offence to enter into the UK without valid passports and visas. This, it was claimed, is detrimental to trafficked victims as many of them use false documentation to enter.
  • While the introduction of a new offence of knowingly employing illegal migrants is an important step forward, a concern was expressed that this could increase the likelihood that illegal migrants would be employed in ever more hidden forms of work.[169] Further, the Act is designed to punish the administrative failure to check documentation rather than labour exploitation.[170] This does not really address the core of the trafficking problem, which is exploitation.

We recommend that the Government should give urgent consideration to the extent to which these legislative provisions fail to address the specific circumstances of trafficking and its victims.

117. More generally and crucially, almost all of those who submitted evidence to us argued that, while adequate laws were in place to prohibit trafficking and prosecute traffickers, the current legislative framework lacked a human rights approach enforcing and promoting the rights of victims. A number of witnesses pointed out that anti-trafficking legislation could not be considered in isolation from the Government's overall immigration legislation and policy, which presented a key obstacle to the promotion of a human rights approach taking into account the rights of victims. Victims may often find themselves treated as immigration offenders and face enforcement actions such as detention and removals. Further, restrictions are placed upon access to health care, public funds, accommodation and other relevant support.[171] There is also variation in the support available to victims in different parts of the country, and between EU and non-EU nationals. Individuals and NGOs alike argued that all of this serves as a barrier to safeguarding their human rights.[172]

118. We agree with those who argued that the legislative framework on trafficking must reflect a human rights approach. To begin with, the protection of victims of trafficking should be incorporated into, and placed at the heart of, the legislative framework. This will require the Government to review immigration laws and policies currently in place in the context of their impact on the victims of trafficking . The focus should be shifted from immigration control to the prevention of exploitation of migrants and workers, and care of victims. Promotion and protection of workers' rights through enforcement of laws on slavery, working hours and the minimum wage, for instance, can also reduce incentives for employers to exploit migrants and therefore reduce the demand for trafficked people. In this regard, the Government must have due regard to its obligations under Article 4 (prohibition on slavery) of the ECHR and Articles 6 (Right to Work) and 7 (Right to Just and Favourable Conditions of Work) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966.

Investigation, Prosecution and Punishment of Traffickers

119. We now turn to consider the various agencies which are in the forefront of UK law enforcement in relation to human trafficking, and the operations they have undertaken.


120. Reflex is a multi-agency taskforce on organised immigration crime established in 2000. Its remit is to co-ordinate operations against organised immigration crime, develop intelligence and strategic planning, and target the infrastructure which supports such criminality.[173] It is chaired by a representative of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and includes representatives from the Home Office, the Immigration Service, the Security and Intelligence Agencies, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and UK police forces co-ordinated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and its Scottish equivalent.[174] Reflex receives £20 million annually from the Home Office for its activities.[175]

121. While Reflex has focused on trafficking for sexual exploitation in the past, it now deals with other forms of exploitation simultaneously. In September 2005, for instance, a new Joint Workplace Enforcement Pilot was established in the West Midlands. It aims to explore the scope of co-ordination among different agencies on the use and exploitation of illegal migrant workers.[176] In addition to on-going intelligence and enforcement related activities, other initiatives under Reflex include national briefing and training of police, immigration and other agencies, and distributing information on trafficking at ports of entry for victims.[177]

122. In addition to its domestic operations, Reflex has established a large network of liaison officers who work abroad to collect intelligence and prevent trafficking at source and transit.[178] It also provides funds to implement various anti-trafficking and capacity building activities. Some activities include advertising campaigns targeted at potential victims,[179] training of law enforcement agencies, and operational co-operation.[180]


123. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 established the SOCA, which started its operations in April 2006 and now leads operations conducted under Reflex. Human trafficking is regarded by the agency as its second priority after drug trafficking.[181] For the financial year 2006/2007, the SOCA will receive £416 million on resource funding and £41 million in capital provision.[182] The SOCA Board has determined that approximately 25% of its entire resources and effort will be devoted to combating organised migration crimes (next to 40% for class A drugs).[183]

124. In Scotland, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency has been dealing with the issue of human trafficking. The agency is to be renamed as Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency in April 2007 under the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006. This agency will be a key partner of the SOCA in the fight against trafficking of human beings.[184]


125. The newest initiative taken by the Government is the proposed establishment of the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) in October 2006. The key function of the UKHTC will be to improve the UK's law enforcement response to trafficking of human beings for sexual, labour and organ exploitation by:

126. The UKHTC will be based in Sheffield and become operational from 2nd October 2006. It will be overseen by an ACPO/multi-agency group, chaired by Deputy Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell of South Yorkshire Police, and consist of 6 functional groups (Training, Law Enforcement and Partner's Education, Research, Victim Care, Intelligence, and Operations and Interventions). The UKHTC will be staffed by representatives of the police, SOCA, CPS, and Immigration Service.[186]


127. Operation Pentameter was a nationwide Reflex-funded enforcement operation launched in February 2006. Its main aim was to tackle trafficking for sexual exploitation, at the same time raising awareness of the problem across all police forces in the UK. Some of its activities included information campaigns in the media, distribution of leaflets and information in 19 languages at major ports of entry such as Victoria Coach Station and Dover, and training and education for police, immigration, and tour operators.[187] Even though only a small number of known massage parlours were targeted, in total 515 operations have been conducted, 232 people arrested with 134 charges laid, and 84 trafficking victims identified and rescued from sexual exploitation, 12 of whom were minors.[188] The Operation ended in June with the decision to establish the UKHTC.


128. Operation Maxim is an anti-trafficking initiative conducted by the Metropolitan Police. It provides a dedicated response to Reflex issues, working in partnership with the Immigration Service and Passport Service. It was established in response to the deaths of 58 Chinese people in a lorry truck in Dover. Between January 2005 and February 2006, Maxim officers made over 150 arrests and seized over 1200 illegal passports.[189] The Maxim team also co-ordinates intelligence and operational developments with other specialist departments, funded either wholly or in part through Reflex:

  • the Human Smuggling Unit (HSU), based at Heathrow, provides both a reactive and proactive response to organised immigration crime.
  • the Metropolitan Police's Clubs and Vice Unit (CO14): as part of its remit, this unit deals with trafficking for prostitution, and conducts regular joint visits with the Immigration Service to premises frequented by sex industry workers in central London.


129. Operation Paladin Child was a three-month scoping initiative (August-November 2003), led by the Metropolitan Police in partnership with the Immigration Service, the NSPCC and Social Services. The main aim was to examine the impact of trafficking of minors into the UK via Heathrow Airport. The study identified 1,738 unaccompanied minors (mostly aged between 12-16) during that period, and found that the vast majority of them were not trafficked or exploited.[190] Nevertheless, as a result of this exercise, awareness has been raised across agencies dealing with unaccompanied minors, and the study has been able to identify the need to establish a multi-agency response to child protection.[191]

130. Following on from this operation, a number of initiatives have been undertaken. The Children's Taskforce of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, for instance, has provided specialist training to identify and protect children, and co-ordinated activities with other agencies.[192] Child Protection Officers are now based at Heathrow Airport and both Child Protection Officers and Social Service staff are based at the Croydon Asylum Screening Unit to ensure a more joined up approach.[193] The Immigration Service, along with the Department for Transport (DfT) is also setting up a voluntary code of practice to be followed by airlines when carrying children who are either unaccompanied or traveling with an adult who is not a family member.[194]

131. In recent times, the Government also set up minor teams, which consist of specially-trained immigration officers who conduct interviews with children.[195] By September 2006, 600 staff will have received specialised training, and there will be a 24-hour, 7-day a week system in place to assist child victims.[196]


132. To illustrate the extent of law enforcement operations against trafficking and organised immigration crimes in the UK, between April 2004 and March 2005, there were 343 Reflex led operations, which resulted in 1,456 arrests, 149 disruptions and the seizure of over $5.5 million in cash (across immigration crimes as a whole).[197] Figures for the numbers of these operations relating to trafficking crime are not available.[198] As of June 2006, there have been 30 convictions for trafficking for sexual exploitation.[199] The length of sentences has varied depending on the degree and extent of the crimes, but some longer than the 14-year statutory maximum have been imposed in some serious cases when other counts were added to the indictment.[200]


133. The Government argues that its overall anti-trafficking policy is based on a "twin-track" approach, which combines a victim-centred (or human rights) approach to protection of victims and a tough law enforcement approach to prosecute traffickers, and that this is the most effective way to combat trafficking.[201] We acknowledge and applaud the ongoing effort of the Government to improve investigation, and the bringing to justice of traffickers, and agree that the second arm of the "twin-track" approach, the tough law enforcement approach, is now being pursued with some effectiveness. Operation Pentameter, in particular, has not only had success in bringing traffickers to justice, but has raised media and therefore public awareness of the evils of trafficking. We also warmly welcome the establishment of the UK Human Trafficking Centre to provide further co-ordination and focus to law enforcement efforts.

134. Nevertheless, as we have already said in relation to the anti-trafficking legislative framework itself, the main criticism levelled against the Government's approach by witnesses to our inquiry is that the first arm of the "twin-track" approach, the protection of victims, has not been promoted and implemented effectively. In this context the UKHTC must ensure as a matter of urgency that its objective of developing a victim-centred approach to trafficking is articulated clearly and swiftly, that this objective remains a central one, informing all its law enforcement and other activities, and that policies are implemented consistently by the UK's different police forces and enforcement authorities. Enforcement of the law against trafficking must always make the interests and the needs of the victims a primary consideration, and their protection should be at the heart of any law enforcement measures. In our view, this is necessary to ensure that the Government fully meets its human rights obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish traffickers fully.

135. In addition, the UKHTC and all other authorities will need to address the concerns expressed by many of those who submitted evidence that there is a lack of adequate knowledge, training, co-ordination/communication and resources on trafficking among law enforcement agencies, other concerned agencies, and NGOs at local and national levels.[202] Once again, this makes it difficult to achieve the "twin-track" approach advocated by the Government.

136. While the legislative framework to prohibit trafficking is clearly in place, we share the concerns of those who say that there have not been enough prosecutions under the existing laws on trafficking,[203] compared to the number of victims arrested, detained and deported. Lack of awareness and training among law enforcement agencies may be contributing factors for this. Also, we recommend that the courts should be more pro-active in issuing confiscation orders to seize assets from traffickers.

137. In the light of the scale of the problem, in terms of both victims and criminals, we recommend that the Government takes steps to identify best practice in other countries where the volume of both victims rescued and criminal convictions is higher.

147   Tackling Human Trafficking - Consultation on Proposals for a UK Action Plan, op.cit., p. 8.  Back

148   Ibid.  Back

149   Ibid., p. 9.  Back

150   Ibid., pp. 9-10. Back

151   Tackling Human Trafficking - Summary of Responses, op.cit. p. 20. Back

152   Ibid., p. 26. Back

153   Q 109  Back

154   Q 97  Back

155   Ibid.  Back

156   Tackling Human Trafficking - Consultation on Proposals for a UK Action Plan, op.cit., p. 9. Back

157   Ibid. Back

158   Tackling Human Trafficking - Summary of responses, op.cit., p. 11.  Back

159   Ibid., pp. 26-27. Back

160   Qq 179 and 181 Back

161   Q 6 Back

162   Tackling Human Trafficking - Summary of responses, op.cit., p. 26  Back

163   ibid. Back

164   Appendix 26 Back

165   Tackling Human Trafficking - Summary of responses, op.cit.p. 24.  Back

166   Appendices 18 and 26.  Back

167   Appendix 1, para. 19  Back

168   Ibid., para. 17 Back

169   Appendix 26 and Q 181  Back

170   Appendix 18 Back

171   Q 58 [Ms. Joshi] Back

172   Q 26  Back

173   Tackling Human Trafficking - Consultation on Proposals for a UK Action Plan, op.cit., p. 13. Back

174   Ibid. Back

175   Appendix 1, para. 24 Back

176   Appendix 1, para. 35 Back

177   Q 129 Back

178   Appendix 1, paras. 32 and 33 Back

179   Q 113 [Mr. Bolt] Back

180   Q 129 Back

181   Tackling Human Trafficking - Consultation on Proposals for a UK Action Plan, op. cit.,p. 14. Back

182   SOCA Annual Plan. Back

183   Ibid. Back

184   Tackling Human Trafficking - Consultation on Proposals for a UK Action Plan, op. cit, p. 12. Back

185   Appendix 5 Back

186   Ibid. Back

187   Q 106 [DCC Maxwell] and Qq 107 and 115.  Back

188   Q 122 [DCC Maxwell] Back

189   Website of the Metropolitan Police at  Back

190   Metropolitan Police, Paladin Child: A Partnership Study of Child Migration to the UK Via London Heathrow, July 2004, pp. 7-8. Back

191   IbidBack

192   HC Deb,6 April 2005, cols. 1503W -1504W Back

193   Ibid. Back

194   Ibid.  Back

195   Ibid. Back

196   Ibid. Back

197   Appendix 1, para. 25 Back

198   Q 119 Back

199   Q 120 Back

200   Appendix 1, para. 29. Back

201   Qq 94, 104, and 123 [Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety, Home Office, Vernon Coaker MP] Back

202   Q 9 [Ms. Hamilton], Q 65, and Qq 192 and 201 [Mr. Tudor] Back

203   Qq 7 and 26  Back

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