Joint Committee On Human Rights Twenty-Sixth Report

7  Conclusions and recommendations

The Government's consultation on a UK Action Plan

1.  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 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. (Paragraph 10)

The scale and extent of the problem

2.  We urge the Government to publish the research into organised crime markets currently being conducted by Home Office researchers, which may assist in providing a clearer picture of the scale and extent of human trafficking into the UK. We foresee however a probable need for further follow-up research to be conducted to scope the problem in relation to all forms of trafficking, and we urge the Government to give priority to such research in order to give a more solid basis for the development of anti-trafficking policy. (Paragraph 82)

Prevention measures in source countries

3.  In light of the impending accession to the EU of Romania and Bulgaria, we urge the Government to work with these countries to inform and educate girls and women of the dangers that arise from accepting "job opportunities" without going through the proper channels. (Paragraph 97)

4.  We suggest the following measures for improvement of the Government's actions for prevention of trafficking in source countries:

  • 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. 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. (Paragraph 100)

Tackling demand

5.  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. (Paragraph 105)

6.  The Government should disseminate information obtained through research to those responsible for combating trafficking 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. (Paragraph 106)

7.  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. (Paragraph 107)

8.  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. (Paragraph 108)

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

10.  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. (Paragraph 110)

Prohibition of trafficking

11.  We broadly agree that the current framework to prohibit and criminalise trafficking complies with the relevant human rights obligations to prohibit the practice. (Paragraph 115)

12.  We recommend that the Government should give urgent consideration to the extent to which section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 and the provisions of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 concerning employment of illegal migrants fail to address the specific circumstances of trafficking and its victims. (Paragraph 116)

13.  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. (Paragraph 118)

Investigation, prosecution and punishment of traffickers

14.  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 Government's "twin-track" approach, the tough law enforcement approach, is now being pursued with some effectiveness. (Paragraph 133)

15.  We warmly welcome the establishment of the UK Human Trafficking Centre to provide further co-ordination and focus to law enforcement efforts. (Paragraph 133)

16.  The UK Human Trafficking Centre 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. (Paragraph 134)

17.  The UK Human Trafficking Centre 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. (Paragraph 135)

18.  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, 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. (Paragraph 136)

19.  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. (Paragraph 137)

Protection of victims

20.  Despite the improvements which have been made to enable trafficking victims to be identified, we agree with those who argued that further significant progress is required so that they can reliably receive protection and co-operate with law enforcement authorities. The law enforcement agencies must work closely with local authorities, NGOs, and other members of civil society in this regard, and further development of training, especially on a multi-agency basis, is required, including for the judiciary and the CPS. We also agree that a national identification and referral system should be established in line with OSCE recommendations. We believe the Government should fund a public outreach and awareness campaign through advertising and the use of a freephone number for victims to self-refer and for those who use prostitutes to refer women whom they think may have been trafficked. Such measures would ensure that the UK was in line with the requirements of Article 10 of the Council of Europe Convention, which requires member states to establish an effective system of identification and referral and to implement training among law enforcement agencies. (Paragraph 146)

21.  While sexual intercourse without consent is clearly an offence, we consider that men who have used the services of trafficked prostitutes should not be discouraged from reporting to the authorities their suspicions that the women concerned may have been trafficked. While we note and welcome Mr Coaker's view that those who genuinely come forward to identify trafficking victims would not be prosecuted for rape, it is clearly inconsistent for the authorities to suggest that men who use the services of a prostitute who has been trafficked will be prosecuted for rape, especially given the legal obstacles to successful prosecution, and at the same time urge such men to report such activity to the authorities or a helpline. While we understand and recognise the reasons why politicians of all parties have called for prosecution of such men for rape, it does appear that this may have been counter-productive. We would welcome further clarification of the Government's position on this question in its response to this Report. (Paragraph 148)

22.  When identified, victims of trafficking should be promptly informed of their rights in the UK. Such information on rights under the ECHR and other instruments to which the UK is a party should also be disseminated as widely as possible, in co-operation with human rights organisations and other representatives of civil society, among sectors of the population which may include trafficking victims, to encourage them to report cases of human rights abuses with confidence and ease. In this respect we commend an initiative of the Home Office to distribute a document on workers' rights, published by the TUC, to Accession 8 workers. (Paragraph 149)

23.  In relation to child victims of trafficking, we welcome the initiatives which have been taken so far to assist in identifying them, such as the Operation Paladin Child and the establishment of minor teams at Heathrow Airport. We recommend that consideration should be given to the extension of such initiatives to other major rail, air and sea ports of entry to the UK, so that the Government can properly monitor the flows of trafficked unaccompanied minors and better ensure that they are identified whenever possible on arrival in the UK. (Paragraph 150)

24.  We urge the Government to address the question of protecting victims' identities in court proceedings, through judicial training if appropriate. (Paragraph 151)

25.  In order to discourage media practices which may affect the safety of victims, the Press Complaints Commission should have, and use, wider powers to protect the privacy of victims, as breaches of its Code. (Paragraph 152)

26.  We believe there is clearly insufficient capacity in the system to provide shelter and specialist support services for the women who need them, and we urge that capacity be expanded as a matter of priority. (Paragraph 155)

27.  We believe it is essential that security of funding is provided for projects such as the Poppy Project. (Paragraph 156)

28.  Victims of sex trafficking must have specialist support. (Paragraph 158)

29.  Victims of trafficking, upon discovery, should have the opportunity to report their experiences to the police and to ask that, where possible, steps be taken against their traffickers or exploiters. (Paragraph 160)

30.  We consider that the question of the support available to trafficked children in legal proceedings, in dealings with other authorities, and in their daily lives, is a matter which needs to be reviewed urgently. We are not persuaded that, generally, local authorities have developed the necessary expertise to cater for the very special needs of trafficked children. (Paragraph 165)

31.  In relation to the involvement of victims in court proceedings against their traffickers, in some cases it may be necessary to liaise with police forces in the source state to ensure protection for the witness or his or her family (although we recognize that ensuring this kind of protection will not always be easy or possible). (Paragraph 167)

32.  In our view proposed changes to the domestic worker regime would mean that domestic workers who are trying to flee a violent employer would be less likely to do, and less likely to approach public authorities for help or to report their abuse. We urge the Government urgently to review these proposals and to ascertain their likely negative impact on victims of trafficking. (Paragraph 169)

33.  We consider that, for the avoidance of doubt, the simplest way for the Government to meet obligations relating to the provision of compensation to trafficking victims would be to clarify the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme rules as to the entitlement of trafficking victims to claim under the Scheme. This could be dealt with as part of the current review of the Scheme. (Paragraph 173)

34.  We recommend that risk assessments be introduced in relation to removal or repatriation of trafficking victims to their countries of origin. (Paragraph 174)

35.  The previous JCHR pressed the Government to remove its reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation to immigration control, and in our view the need for this to be done is further strengthened by its potential effect in relation to child trafficking victims if their best interests are not to be compromised. In their submissions, both the NSPCC and ECPAT UK emphasised the need for specialist support services and safe houses for child victims of trafficking, and suggested that such victims should automatically have a right of residence regardless of their willingness to take part in criminal proceedings. We agree with these recommendations. (Paragraph 180)

36.  The Government should conduct more rigorous research on source countries in order to make an accurate assessment on victims' return. In relation to voluntary repatriation, as we have already suggested, the Government must work closely with appropriate authorities and NGOs in source countries to ensure that victims are able to reintegrate into their societies. (Paragraph 182)

37.  While all elements of the Italian anti-trafficking approach may not be transferable to the UK context, the fundamental philosophy behind it is one which we found highly attractive and impressive. Its clear harmony with human rights principles has had a profound influence on our thinking about human trafficking policy within the UK, and we commend it as a model for our own Government in developing its strategy against human trafficking. We further urge the Government to conduct its own research into the effectiveness of the Italian approach. (Paragraph 195)

38.  While many of those who submitted evidence agree that the Government has started taking some significant steps, and notwithstanding assurances given to us, we consider that the current level of protection provided to trafficking victims as a whole is still far from adequate. Either through legislation or other means, effective protection of trafficking victims must be put on a far more reliable basis in order to meet the UK's human rights obligations. (Paragraph 197)

39.  More specifically, to improve protection of trafficking victims the Government needs to—

  • improve and develop training in the identification of victims, and ensure that those who are identified as victims of trafficking are not treated as criminals or immigration offenders
  • ensure a more comprehensive approach to the provision of basic support and assistance to victims upon their discovery
  • place finance for victim support and accommodation on a secure footing, although its provision will extensively involve the experience, assistance and resources of NGOs
  • put adequate procedures in place to ensure that victims of trafficking are provided with appropriate support (including interpreters and legal advice) to pursue effectively an application for residence within the UK
  • do more to assist those who are returned to their country of origin (or voluntarily repatriated) to re-integrate into their home society without increased vulnerability, particularly to re-trafficking. (Paragraph 198)

40.  We do not accept that there is any realistic likelihood that the Council of Europe Convention's provisions relating to reflection periods and residence permits would act as a pull factor for migration into the UK. (Paragraph 200)

41.  We find the twin concepts of reflection periods and residence permits to be highly attractive as guarantors of the protection of the human rights of trafficking victims and of the provision of other protection and support measures to them. In Italy, as we have noted, there is no provision for reflection periods as such, although temporary residence permits provide de facto reflection periods, and have protected victims' human rights effectively. However, especially given the safeguards contained in the Council of Europe Convention, we consider that all the evidence supports the case for the UK to adopt these provisions. (Paragraph 202)

42.  We understand the point made by the Government that delays in co-operation with the authorities by victims may reduce the likelihood of successful apprehension and conviction of traffickers, but the welfare of the victim must be the paramount consideration. We consider that three months would be an appropriate standard length of time for reflection periods. (Paragraph 203)

43.  Although we recognise that the UK is not bound by it, we recommend that the Government uses the Council Directive on Residence Permits as a model for residence permits for victims. This Directive obliges Member States of the EU to provide residence permits of six months. (Paragraph 204)

44.  We are firm in the belief that the UK should sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention. We can see no convincing argument against this course of action. While it would be possible for the UK to construct a coherent human rights based approach to tackling human trafficking outside the Convention, adherence to it in concert with the other nations of the Council of Europe will in our view greatly strengthen the framework of anti-trafficking policy in the UK, notably in relation to the core matter of the protection of victims. (Paragraph 205)

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