The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group has just released a report criticizing UK measures to protect trafficking victims. It concludes the UK has not established a system led by the idea that a person who has been trafficked has been the victim of abuse and needs a recovery period before being exposed to the rigours of the immigration system (designed to identify and remove those not entitled to remain here).
A lack of cohesion between local good practice and central advice has resulted in a lack of referrals and prosecutions. Research highlights over 130 victims identified by support organizations between April 2009-2010 were not officially referred to the system mainly because of fears of the consequences of their immigration status once brought to the attention of the authorities. This paradoxically plays out the same fear traffickers use to control their victims.
Through knowing what the signs are and being aware of the misconceptions about victims, we can all help change the way the victims see the authorities and the way the authorities see victims. But we can’t help victims have a better image of the authorities if practice doesn’t reflect this.
On a positive note, there are steps being taken in the right direction. Last week I attended an event given by Living Lens about their new project ‘Next Steps’. This aims to highlight plight of the victims, improve the way the UK authorities are viewed by victims and empower victims so that they are more likely to come forward without fear of rebuttal, deploration or prosecution. They are working in partnership with the London Metropolitan Police Service and the Poppy Project to produce a film resource for women who have been trafficked for forced prostitution. This explores issues of giving evidence in court with the aim of increasing conviction of traffickers whilst safeguarding the women.
You can read about their work here: http://livinglens.blogspot.com/
You can read a summary of the Anti-Trafficking report here: http://www.antislavery.org/includes/documents/cm_docs/2010/r/report_summary.pdf
And the BBC article ‘Anti-Trafficking Measures ‘not fit for purpose’: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/10320676.stm