Human trafficking to UK 'rising'

 

BBC's Tom Symonds: "Police have been stepping up the fight against the global trade in people"

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The number of people being trafficked into the UK is rising, latest government estimates suggest.

Last year the authorities learned of 946 victims, compared with 710 in 2010, the inter-departmental ministerial group on human trafficking said.

Trafficking gangs in China, Vietnam, Nigeria and eastern Europe now pose the biggest threat to the UK , it said.

The government said better co-ordination between its departments and with authorities abroad was key.

But anti-slavery groups warned government "failures" had led to "significant steps back" in the fight.

Illegal organ removals

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At the scene

Tom Symonds Home Affairs correspondent

In Ilford, East London, the police moved in at 05:15 BST, smashing through the door of an end of terrace house, but without result. It was empty.

The Met says it carries out two such raids every week, on average.

Two miles away in a second house, they found a Lithuanian family living in one room. A stack of mail showed that a large number of people have stayed there before.

They questioned the Lithuanians who said they were being paid below minimum wage to work in a recycling depot and building firm.

The room costs £140 a week. There was a CCTV camera watching the door of the house.

Are they victims of people trafficking? It's not clear, and often those involved haven't asked themselves the same question.

But police say those who try to run are often subject to violence.

There is currently no official figure for the number of victims trafficked into the country each year.

However, the report said 712 adult victims and 234 child victims were reported last year to the National Referral Mechanism, the official body that identifies and looks after those caught up in trafficking.

Of the victims referred in 2010, 524 were adults and 186 were children.

It is thought the increase could be explained by improvements in identifying victims, although campaigners say the figures of those being trafficked could be far higher as many victims choose not to come forward for fear of being deported.

The report suggested an increase in the number of children being forced into crime, including street begging.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimates there are about 300 child trafficking victims in the UK every year.

The report also detailed two cases of people trafficked for illegal organ removals, but they were detected and stopped before the operations were carried out.

One involved the planned sale of a victim's kidneys.

'Better life'

Det Insp Kevin Hyland, of London's Metropolitan Police - which sees the UK's highest rates of trafficking - said some victims travelled to the UK in lorries or containers but the majority arrived lawfully, often accompanied by their traffickers.

 

Sophie Hayes said no one helped her. Not even her wealthy clients, which included judges and senior police officers.

"The vast majority of them think they're coming to a better life in the UK," he said.

Mr Hyland said it was often "almost impossible" for border guards to spot victims because they often did not even know they were being trafficked.

Many victims are promised jobs in the hotel or leisure industry, or as interpreters, but when they arrive they are "groomed or threatened" and used for sexual exploitation, forced labour or both, he said.

In London, police deal with more than 100 cases of trafficking a year. Some will involve more than 400 victims but the majority involve about 10 to 15 people.

The report revealed the largest number of referrals of potential victims of trafficking were Nigerian nationals. From within Europe, Romanian nationals were the biggest group referred.

There are an estimated 92 organised crime groups in the UK with known involvement in human trafficking, it said.

And 142 defendants were charged with offences related to human trafficking in 2011/12.

'Vile trade'

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Organ trafficking

Philippa Roxby Health reporter, BBC News

The two potential victims of organ trafficking in the UK in 2011 are the first people identified as being forced into giving up their internal organs for transplant.

But it's still a small problem, with organ trafficking making up only 1% of all potential victims of trafficking last year, according to the Serious Organised Crime Association.

Cases of illegal organ trading are rare in the UK because of safeguards in place.

The Human Tissue Authority sees 1,200 cases a year of living organ donation - 95% involve kidneys and 5% liver lobes.

These cases include people making altruistic organ donations and those coming from abroad to donate organs to family members.

The HTA interviews all potential donors to make sure they are consenting freely and to ensure there is no reward or payment.

The process can take up to six months with the donor required to sign a form stating no coercion was involved.

Only when the HTA is satisfied would the operation be allowed to go ahead.

Advice is being drafted for NHS staff to help them identify potential cases of organ trafficking.

The report concluded intelligence sharing with international police forces was already "proving effective".

Immigration minister Mark Harper said the results demonstrated UK professionals were getting better at "spotting" the crime due to "cross-government" cooperation.

"We're doing a better job of cracking down people involved in the vile trade," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

But the number of those prosecuted was "not enough," he said.

"One of the things we do is to prosecute people for the most serious offences we can, and sometimes that's not a trafficking offence."

Mr Harper also said agencies needed to "make sure victims who are trafficked are treated as victims and not as offenders, which has happened in the past".

Dr Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said Mr Harper "must face up to the fact" that the problem was worsening "because of fundamental policy failures".

He said the government viewed the problem "through the lens of immigration" and had allowed rights for migrant workers to slip from "best practice".

"It would be helpful if the government appointed a national commissioner on trafficking to make sure policy on this issue was unimpeded by politics."

The report revealed thousands of "front-line" workers, including border staff, police and healthcare workers, have been trained to better identify, support and protect victims over the past two years.

Some airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook, are also training cabin crew to identify those who engaged in trafficking and their potential victims.

And a 24-hour confidential line has been set up for crew to report concerns to border officials before a plane lands in the UK.

 

Have you been affected by the issues in this story? Please get in touch using the form below.

 

 

Trafficked children in UK council care 'going missing'

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Some children trafficked into the UK are going missing from local authority care, a Council of Europe report says.

It says there are indications that increasing numbers of people are being brought into the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour.

The council raises particular concerns over a lack of secure and suitable accommodation for trafficked children who end up in local authority care.

It calls for better trained supervisors or foster carers for them.

The Council of Europe's Greta (Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings) says reports suggest a "significant" number of trafficked children in local authority care go missing and some end up rejoining those who exploited them in the first place.

Its report says hundreds of people have been identified as victims of trafficking in the UK but only 56 people were convicted of human trafficking in 2009 and 29 the following year.

The common countries of origin were China, Vietnam, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, Nigeria, Uganda and India, the report says.

Children tended to be brought in for the purposes of sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, benefit fraud, cannabis farming and forced begging and stealing.

Greta acknowledges good work is going on around the UK but it found inconsistent approaches in different areas.

Intelligence gap

Greta also highlights what it describes as a significant intelligence gap on trafficking, saying the levels of trust and co-operation between victim support services and law enforcement agencies need to be improved.

The Council of Europe says on its website that it aims to "develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals".

This is its first assessment of human trafficking in the UK since the anti-trafficking convention came into force in the UK in April 2009.

As well as improvements regarding care of trafficked children, Greta recommends a number of actions:

More needs to be done to separate the identification of trafficking victims from decisions on immigration or asylum and it points out that quick decisions on immigration status can prevent victims being recognised

Victims of human trafficking need assistance and support regardless of when the trafficking actually took place

Prosecutors across the UK need guidance to ensure trafficking is considered as a serious violation of human rights and victims of trafficking should not receive penalties for their involvement in illegal activities carried out under duress

The assisted voluntary return programmes should be reviewed to check whether they are appropriate for victims of trafficking.

 

It is impossible to know how many people are smuggled into the UK, MPs heard

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Sex traffic victim gets damages

EU crackdown on human trafficking

UK 'failing trafficking victims'

Children smuggled into the UK are being sold on British streets for up to £16,000 each, MPs have heard in a debate on human trafficking.

The DUP's David Simpson, MP for Upper Bann, said it was a "disgrace".

Conservative MP Mark Field said human trafficking was the "modern equivalent of slavery" and the "most unpleasant by-product of globalisation".

Home Office minister Damien Green said the government was doing all it could to "end this trade in human misery".

The government recently signed up to the EU human trafficking directive, while publication of its strategy to combat trafficking - which has been criticised by some campaign groups - has been postponed to June.

'Voiceless and vulnerable'

Mark Field, MP for Cities of London and Westminster, who chaired the debate, said mostly women and children were the victims of the illicit trade.

They were coerced into forced labour, sexual services and domestic servitude, he said.

He said reliable statistics were difficult to come by.

"Being a covert crime it is inevitably incredibly tricky to measure," he said.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

A busy brothel with five to 10 girls in central London can make £20,000 a week”

Mark Field MP

"Victims are often disconnected from mainstream society and find it very difficult to come forward."

He said illegal immigrants also often feared deportation.

"The modern day slaves that it [human trafficking] has created are voiceless and vulnerable. They are stowed in the untouched shadows of our communities."

But, he continued, they did not just exist in the "seedier corners".

"The backdrop to their exploitation can as easily be in suburbia, the fields of our countryside or even the beaches of our shores".

Traffickers can enslave using violence, threats to harm a victim's family, through debt, or they can be manipulated by deception, he said.

"Trafficking can be perceived as comparatively low risk. A busy brothel with five to 10 girls in central London can make £20,000 a week without the violence and risk that is associated with the illicit drugs trade."

David Simpson MP congratulated Mr Field "on very important debate".

But he called for action rather than strategy.

"When children in this United Kingdom are being sold on its streets for £15,000 and £16,000 a time, it's another disgrace and surely we need action and we need some serious penalties for these crimes."

Damien Green said said the strategy was for agencies to work together, while they remained committed to improving victim identification.

The Salvation Army would be used as a "gateway to other providers", he said.

"I do take the point that our work should be transparent and responsive to criticism when that criticism is well-founded."

Prime Minister David Cameron later told MPs in the Commons: "We need to make sure we do everything we can to stamp out this repulsive practice."

More on This Story

It is impossible to know how many people are smuggled into the UK, MPs heard

Continue reading the main story

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Sex traffic victim gets damages

EU crackdown on human trafficking

UK 'failing trafficking victims'

Trafficked children 'sold in UK for £16,000'

It is impossible to know how many people are smuggled into the UK, MPs heard

Continue reading the main story

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Sex traffic victim gets damages

EU crackdown on human trafficking

UK 'failing trafficking victims'

Children smuggled into the UK are being sold on British streets for up to £16,000 each, MPs have heard in a debate on human trafficking.

The DUP's David Simpson, MP for Upper Bann, said it was a "disgrace".

Conservative MP Mark Field said human trafficking was the "modern equivalent of slavery" and the "most unpleasant by-product of globalisation".

Home Office minister Damien Green said the government was doing all it could to "end this trade in human misery".

The government recently signed up to the EU human trafficking directive, while publication of its strategy to combat trafficking - which has been criticised by some campaign groups - has been postponed to June.

'Voiceless and vulnerable'

Mark Field, MP for Cities of London and Westminster, who chaired the debate, said mostly women and children were the victims of the illicit trade.

They were coerced into forced labour, sexual services and domestic servitude, he said.

He said reliable statistics were difficult to come by.

"Being a covert crime it is inevitably incredibly tricky to measure," he said.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

A busy brothel with five to 10 girls in central London can make £20,000 a week”

Mark Field MP

"Victims are often disconnected from mainstream society and find it very difficult to come forward."

He said illegal immigrants also often feared deportation.

"The modern day slaves that it [human trafficking] has created are voiceless and vulnerable. They are stowed in the untouched shadows of our communities."

But, he continued, they did not just exist in the "seedier corners".

"The backdrop to their exploitation can as easily be in suburbia, the fields of our countryside or even the beaches of our shores".

Traffickers can enslave using violence, threats to harm a victim's family, through debt, or they can be manipulated by deception, he said.

"Trafficking can be perceived as comparatively low risk. A busy brothel with five to 10 girls in central London can make £20,000 a week without the violence and risk that is associated with the illicit drugs trade."

David Simpson MP congratulated Mr Field "on very important debate".

But he called for action rather than strategy.

"When children in this United Kingdom are being sold on its streets for £15,000 and £16,000 a time, it's another disgrace and surely we need action and we need some serious penalties for these crimes."

Damien Green said said the strategy was for agencies to work together, while they remained committed to improving victim identification.

The Salvation Army would be used as a "gateway to other providers", he said.

"I do take the point that our work should be transparent and responsive to criticism when that criticism is well-founded."

Prime Minister David Cameron later told MPs in the Commons: "We need to make sure we do everything we can to stamp out this repulsive practice."

 

Children smuggled into the UK are being sold on British streets for up to £16,000 each, MPs have heard in a debate on human trafficking.

The DUP's David Simpson, MP for Upper Bann, said it was a "disgrace".

Conservative MP Mark Field said human trafficking was the "modern equivalent of slavery" and the "most unpleasant by-product of globalisation".

Home Office minister Damien Green said the government was doing all it could to "end this trade in human misery".

The government recently signed up to the EU human trafficking directive, while publication of its strategy to combat trafficking - which has been criticised by some campaign groups - has been postponed to June.

'Voiceless and vulnerable'

Mark Field, MP for Cities of London and Westminster, who chaired the debate, said mostly women and children were the victims of the illicit trade.

They were coerced into forced labour, sexual services and domestic servitude, he said.

He said reliable statistics were difficult to come by.

"Being a covert crime it is inevitably incredibly tricky to measure," he said.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

A busy brothel with five to 10 girls in central London can make £20,000 a week”

Mark Field MP

"Victims are often disconnected from mainstream society and find it very difficult to come forward."

He said illegal immigrants also often feared deportation.

"The modern day slaves that it [human trafficking] has created are voiceless and vulnerable. They are stowed in the untouched shadows of our communities."

But, he continued, they did not just exist in the "seedier corners".

"The backdrop to their exploitation can as easily be in suburbia, the fields of our countryside or even the beaches of our shores".

Traffickers can enslave using violence, threats to harm a victim's family, through debt, or they can be manipulated by deception, he said.

"Trafficking can be perceived as comparatively low risk. A busy brothel with five to 10 girls in central London can make £20,000 a week without the violence and risk that is associated with the illicit drugs trade."

David Simpson MP congratulated Mr Field "on very important debate".

But he called for action rather than strategy.

"When children in this United Kingdom are being sold on its streets for £15,000 and £16,000 a time, it's another disgrace and surely we need action and we need some serious penalties for these crimes."

Damien Green said said the strategy was for agencies to work together, while they remained committed to improving victim identification.

The Salvation Army would be used as a "gateway to other providers", he said.

"I do take the point that our work should be transparent and responsive to criticism when that criticism is well-founded."

Prime Minister David Cameron later told MPs in the Commons: "We need to make sure we do everything we can to stamp out this repulsive practice."

More on This Story

 

Charities say government fails trafficking victims

By Dominic Casciani BBC News

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Charities have accused the government of failing in their first test to help victims of trafficking.

They have criticised the decision not to adopt an EU directive which they say will give victims better protection and lead to more trafficker prosecutions.

The Home Office says the UK already has ample measures to help victims.

The European directive on preventing and combating trafficking is expected to be approved in the autumn. Denmark and the UK are not signing up to it.

But charities, including Anti-Slavery International, said the trafficking of people throughout Europe demanded a cross-border solution and that the UK should step into line with other EU states.

Supporters of the proposed directive say it is better than the existing European convention which sets out how best to deal with the criminals and to protect the victims.

It aims to establish common standards across member states for the prosecution of traffickers - but it also proposes greater protections for victims who have been involved in crime in the country they are held in.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

"Human Trafficking is a brutal form of organised crime and combating it is a key priory of the new government”

Home Office spokesman

This could mean that some people who are trafficked into criminal enterprises in the UK, such as the sex trade or cannabis farming, could not be charged over false immigration papers forced on them by the gang responsible for their move.

Klara Skrivankova, of Anti-Slavery International, said: "Despite significant positive steps, the Government cannot become complacent and say that the UK is already doing enough.

"Without international cooperation the government will lose the battle with the traffickers. By choosing not to opt in to the directive the Government is failing in its efforts to combat this transnational crime."

A Home Office spokesman said the directive offered no new benefits to the UK, but ministers would review the position once the directive had been agreed.

"Human trafficking is a brutal form of organised crime and combating it is a key priory of the new government," said the spokesman.

"Opting in now would also require us to make mandatory the provisions which are currently discretionary in UK law. These steps would reduce the scope for professional discretion and flexibility and might divert already limited resources."

But Christine Beddoe, of Ecpat UK, a charity that helps children who have been abused and trafficked, said: "The government claims that it wants to make the UK a hostile environment for traffickers but this cannot be achieved unless the whole EU takes a common approach."

In June a coalition of charities published a report that said the system for handling victims in the UK was "not fit for purpose".

The Crown Prosecution Service has separately launched a public consultation on trafficking in which victims will be asked their views.

 

Charities say government fails trafficking victims

By Dominic Casciani BBC News

Many trafficking victims are forced into prostitution

Continue reading the main story

Related Stories

Anti-trafficking system attacked

Glasgow games sex trade warning

Stag parties 'fuel sex trafficking'

Charities have accused the government of failing in their first test to help victims of trafficking.

They have criticised the decision not to adopt an EU directive which they say will give victims better protection and lead to more trafficker prosecutions.

The Home Office says the UK already has ample measures to help victims.

The European directive on preventing and combating trafficking is expected to be approved in the autumn. Denmark and the UK are not signing up to it.

But charities, including Anti-Slavery International, said the trafficking of people throughout Europe demanded a cross-border solution and that the UK should step into line with other EU states.

Supporters of the proposed directive say it is better than the existing European convention which sets out how best to deal with the criminals and to protect the victims.

It aims to establish common standards across member states for the prosecution of traffickers - but it also proposes greater protections for victims who have been involved in crime in the country they are held in.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

"Human Trafficking is a brutal form of organised crime and combating it is a key priory of the new government”

Home Office spokesman

This could mean that some people who are trafficked into criminal enterprises in the UK, such as the sex trade or cannabis farming, could not be charged over false immigration papers forced on them by the gang responsible for their move.

Klara Skrivankova, of Anti-Slavery International, said: "Despite significant positive steps, the Government cannot become complacent and say that the UK is already doing enough.

"Without international cooperation the government will lose the battle with the traffickers. By choosing not to opt in to the directive the Government is failing in its efforts to combat this transnational crime."

A Home Office spokesman said the directive offered no new benefits to the UK, but ministers would review the position once the directive had been agreed.

"Human trafficking is a brutal form of organised crime and combating it is a key priory of the new government," said the spokesman.

"Opting in now would also require us to make mandatory the provisions which are currently discretionary in UK law. These steps would reduce the scope for professional discretion and flexibility and might divert already limited resources."

But Christine Beddoe, of Ecpat UK, a charity that helps children who have been abused and trafficked, said: "The government claims that it wants to make the UK a hostile environment for traffickers but this cannot be achieved unless the whole EU takes a common approach."

In June a coalition of charities published a report that said the system for handling victims in the UK was "not fit for purpose".

The Crown Prosecution Service has separately launched a public consultation on trafficking in which victims will be asked their views.

Girl, 11, endured 'horrific' sex trafficking ordeal

 

The girl was moved around locations across Sheffield for sex

A woman whose 11-year-old daughter was targeted by a human trafficking ring in South Yorkshire has spoken of her family's "absolutely horrific" ordeal.

The mother, known only as Angela, described how her daughter was used for sex, being moved between flats and hotels in Sheffield.

She said a group of young men - who her daughter met through fellow pupils - used threats and violence to control the girl's behaviour for three years.

When Angela tried to intervene in the situation to help the girl her family was threatened.

She told the BBC men would tell her daughter that they were going to kill her family or burn down the house.

 

We found out that these men were taking them and using them for sex. All these girls were under 13 years of age

Angela, the girl's mother

According to one charity, the girl is one of at least 400 families in the UK, affected by sexual exploitation in the last five years.

"They frightened her to such an extent that she really daren't do anything other that what they said," Angela said.

She described how her daughter initially believed the men were aged around 16 years old, and considered them her boyfriends, but soon realised they were older.

"What she soon realised was that none of them were genuine and they were handing her around from one to the other," Angela said.

"She said she was dealing with it, always kept saying she was dealing with it, she knew what she was doing."

However the girl managed to escape her mother's attempts to keep her safe.

"We'd lock all the doors and windows and she would actually manage to get through an upstairs window, she would jump out," Angela said.

At this time she started following her daughter when she left the house.

'Five-hour battles'

"We found out that these men were taking them and using them for sex. They were taking them to flats around the city. All these girls were under 13 years of age," she said.

"We didn't know what these men looked like which was the most scary thing because it was like being terrorised as a family by faceless individuals."

She said that her daughter started going missing for days at a time, and on one occasion for an entire week.

"We would have five-hour battles in the hall trying to stop her leaving the house, but at some point they have to go to school," she said.

Eventually, when Angela's daughter was 14 years old police involvement ended the girl's ordeal. No prosecutions were ever brought.

"It was absolutely horrific," Angela said. "Even thinking about it now makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end."

Teenage 'rebellion'

Catherine Tatman of the Leeds-based charity Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (CROP) said that grooming could affect people from all socio-economic backgrounds.

The charity has helped more than 400 families which have been affected by sexual exploitation in the last five years.

She added that signs of grooming could start off looking like normal signs of teenage rebellion.

"It may just be that they begin to come back in late, that they begin to experiment with alcohol or drugs," she said.

She added that other signs included dropping out of school and getting new possessions including mobile phones.

"It's a combination of lots of different factors which would really make you thinking that something above the ordinary is going on," she said.

 

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