Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

GRETA publishes report on the United Kingdom

Link to GRETA’s report

Strasbourg, 12.09.12 – The UK has taken a number of important steps in the fight against human trafficking, according to a report published today by the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA). However, more needs to be done to ensure that the overall approach is focused on the victims of trafficking and their rights as human beings.

The report welcomes the fact that, despite difficult economic circumstances, government funding to support victims of human trafficking has been maintained at over £2.75 million per year across the UK. It also highlights numerous positive developments including the creation of the UK Human Trafficking Centre and a National Referral Mechanism for identifying and assisting victims, as well as the adoption of a four-year Strategy on Human Trafficking covering the period 2011-2015.

At the same time, the report calls on the UK authorities to further strengthen mechanisms for identifying victims and to make sure that people who have been trafficked are treated primarily as victims of serious human rights abuses. For example, it stresses that victims should have full access to support mechanisms, regardless of when the trafficking actually took place, and that they should not be prosecuted for offences committed as a result of their being trafficked.

GRETA President Nicolas Le Coz said: “The UK has clearly made significant progress in fighting human trafficking since the Council of Europe convention came into force, but there is still work to be done in a number of areas.

For example, it is important that decisions on immigration and asylum are clearly separated from procedures to identify victims of trafficking, which hasn’t always happened in the UK. Similarly, a clear legal and policy framework is needed for the return of victims of trafficking to their countries of origin, as existing voluntary return programmes may not always be appropriate.

Furthermore, significant numbers of children – including potential and confirmed victims of trafficking – currently go missing from local authority care in the UK. Steps should to be taken to address this, including by assigning a legal guardian to all unaccompanied children who are potentially victims of trafficking. Otherwise there is a risk that some child victims will simply end up back in the hands of the traffickers.

Finally, the level of prosecutions and convictions for trafficking-related offences in the UK is low.”