“The UK government is taking the country’s anti-trafficking efforts in a dangerous direction, if its new strategy on tackling human trafficking published today is anything to go by.” This is the view of Steve Chalke MBE, founder of the charity STOP THE TRAFFIK and UN.GIFT Special Advisor on Community Action against Human Trafficking.
Steve said, “The government’s immigration-dominated focus on addressing the symptoms and not the causes of the trade in human beings will do little to stem the tide. It could also increase the vulnerability of the men, women, and children who are trafficked into the UK and exploited, by concentrating more on their immigration status than their position as victims of a horrible crime. Human trafficking is a human rights abuse, not an immigration offence. Police and border actions against the criminals are key, but unless there is a coordinated strategy to prevent human trafficking occurring in the first place, these efforts will be no more than sticking plasters. This new government strategy is a missed opportunity.”
The UK government has clear international obligations to take specific measures, in particular helping communities identify and prevent human trafficking, and the strategy published today does little to bring this country into compliance with many of these:
· Community research has to be undertaken to assess the scale of human trafficking. No government research on trafficking for forced labour or other non-sexual forms of exploitation has been published.
· Information should be shared between the relevant stakeholders. Charities and community groups still need much more information and feedback from government bodies.
· Awareness-raising is crucial to making communities harder for criminals to operate in. There is little actual government support for anti-trafficking work with the general public.
· Education of young people will equip them to stay safe from human trafficking. Little effort has been made by the government to address the issue of human trafficking in schools and other settings.
· Root causes of human trafficking need to be addressed through targeted poverty-reduction and other programmes. The government refuses to mainstream anti-trafficking measures into its international development efforts.
· Safe migration and assistance information should be distributed to vulnerable migrants in the UK. There is no evidence that this is being systematically done.
· Discouraging demand for goods and services produced by human trafficking victims is essential to stopping the crime. There has been little government effort to date to engage the private sector on this issue.
· Civil society delivers most of the anti-trafficking projects in this country and need to be actively involved. Government consultation with the third sector on this strategy has been confused, last-minute, and not transparent.
Ruth Dearnley, Chief Executive of STOP THE TRAFFIK, says “Prevention is better than cure. Human trafficking starts in communities and can be stopped by communities. It isn’t just happening to someone else, somewhere else – it’s happening right here, right now. British young people are being trafficked within and out of the UK, and the new government strategy does little to address this. Although we welcome the strategy’s intentions about working with the public and the private sector, this government is still falling short on its responsibilities to prevent human trafficking, charities like STOP THE TRAFFIK are filling the gap, and we are equipping communities to prevent and tackle human trafficking in their localities.”