Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-83)


5 JUNE 2006

  Q80  Lord Bowness: You have talked about children during the course of the afternoon and you have argued in your submission that children should be dealt with separately from adult trafficked persons. Can you summarise for us what additional or different measures you particularly would recommend for dealing with children as opposed to adults?

  Ms Finch: At the moment, children have no access to the POPPY Project. There used to be safe houses in West Sussex but they were closed partly because the traffickers moved up north and did not go through Gatwick any more. Although they get accommodated by social services, that is not necessarily safe. A foster mother cannot protect a child against a trafficking gang. There does need to be something similar to safe houses for children. There also needs to be a strengthening of the Children Act 2004. As you will be aware, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate is the only authority that does not have to comply with the new duty which is to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The police do; Customs do; the transport police do but not the Immigration Department. If they had to do that, they would take it more seriously and start to look more carefully at the stories these children are telling.

  Q81  Chairman: Miss Biden, you refer to Article 8, the right to respect for private and family life, as a factor in requesting leave to remain. Can you explain why?

  Miss Biden: We refer to it mostly in the context of saying that it has not been a very useful category for victims seeking leave to remain, largely because when they are brought to the UK, because of the conditions of isolation that they held in, they are often not going to have established family life in the UK, which is going to make that a strong claim. Also, the Immigration Appeals Tribunal has been very reluctant to recognise family life except in very exceptional circumstances. There is European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence that says that right should include the right to protection of physical integrity but we are not seeing that being successfully used in the UK.

  Q82  Chairman: Earlier you were going on to raise the issue of compensation. Why do you think people are entitled to compensation from the UK government if they have been trafficked into the UK from elsewhere?

  Miss Biden: The right to compensation is provided for in the Palermo Protocol which the UK has ratified and also in the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime which the UK has ratified. It is also provided for by the Council of Europe Convention which we hope the UK will sign up to in the future. At the moment, the way the compensation mechanisms are working, there are no recorded examples and no situations that we are aware of where compensation has been awarded either from the UK government or via traffickers where assets are seized as part of the prosecution process. The court does have powers to award compensation in addition to custodial sentences. There is some scope for compensation to come from the proceeds of crime, not out of the general government, Treasury pool.

  Q83  Chairman: You mentioned that the UK courts sometimes suggest that trafficked victims can go elsewhere if they return to their country of origin so that there is no retaliation by traffickers. That is similar to the Internal Flight Alternative sometimes applied to refugees. Is that a reasonable option from the human rights perspective?

  Miss Biden: If you are looking at young women who have experienced severe trauma and returning them, expecting them to repatriate to their countries, obviously that can vary from one individual to another and from one country to another. There are many examples that show that that is not a reasonable expectation. You also get some immigration authorities saying, "Well, you were deceived the first time so when you go back you will know not to be deceived. You will not make that mistake again." That again does not recognise the reality of potential reprisals, how lucrative trafficking can be for the traffickers and other forms of exploitation that someone can face if they are returned.

  Chairman: Thank you for your evidence today. We will be producing a report hopefully before the summer recess. It has been very helpful to hear from you, both in your written evidence and in your answers to questions today. Thank you.

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