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The European Commission has adopted the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016), a set of concrete and practical measures to be implemented over the next five years.
These include the establishment of national law enforcement units specialised in human trafficking and the creation of joint European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases.
Preliminary data collected by Member States at EU level show that three quarters of victims identified in EU Member States are trafficked for sexual exploitation (76% in 2010). Other victims are forced into labour exploitation (14%), begging (3%) and domestic servitude (1%).
The strategy includes prevention, protection and support of the victims, as well as prosecution of the traffickers. It identifies five priorities and outlines a series of initiatives for each of them, such as:
UK businesses will be required to disclose all their efforts to end slavery, under a Bill launched in Parliament.
The Transparency in Supply Chains Bill, drafted by the Centre for Social Justice and Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart, will demand that businesses investigate whether their supply chains are slave-free.
As part of landmark measures to raise awareness about the nature and scale of human trafficking, businesses will be encouraged to conduct an audit of their suppliers to check that they comply with anti-slavery laws.
An estimated 27 million people are enslaved worldwide and this latest legislation will prompt all UK businesses, with a turnover of over £100 million or more, to take responsibility to end this appalling abuse.
Employees working with suppliers should be trained to blow the whistle on questionable practice, and all information of the vital work being done to combat slavery should be published online as part of the business’s annual review.
The Bill, intended to foster cooperation and build a consensus on slavery, is expected to prompt a cultural change similar to that brought about by the environmental or fair trade movements.
The CSJ is conducting an 18 month review of slavery in the UK which will be published in the Autumn of 2012.
All crime victims should have the same basic rights across the EU, and should have their specific needs assessed, under a draft EU directive setting minimum protection standards unanimously endorsed by the Civil Liberties and Women’s Rights committees. An estimated 75 million people are victims of crime every year in the EU.
When crimes happen abroad, differing cultures, languages and laws can create serious problems. The draft directive aims to ensure that whatever the crime - mugging, robbery, assault, rape, harassment, hate crime, terrorist attack, or human trafficking - and wherever in the EU it is committed, all victims have the same basic rights to be recognised and treated with respect and dignity, get protection and support for their physical integrity and property, and have access to justice and compensation.
Under the European Commission proposal, children, persons with disabilities, victims of rape and victims of human trafficking will be considered vulnerable and will benefit from special treatment. MEPs propose to extend the list of vulnerable victims and include asylum seekers and refugees, elderly and victims of gender-based violence, terrorism, organised crime, violence in close relationships, torture, hate crime, organ trafficking and attempted homicide. Relatives of murdered persons should also be considered vulnerable.
Victims need to be informed from the start about their rights, either orally or in writing, in simple and accessible language and in a language that they understand. Victims should also be enabled to report the crime and take part actively in the criminal proceedings (interviews and court hearings) in a language that they understand. Interpretation and translation services would be made available to this end, MEPs say.
Amnesty International has recently been giving evidence on human trafficking to the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee, in which it raises concerns about the lack of prosecutions for human trafficking in Scotland.
Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty in Scotland, said:
"There have been 150 convictions for trafficking offences in England and Wales, but only one successful prosecution in Scotland. Prosecutions for lesser offences, whilst potentially easier to prove, carry lesser punishments, and make it impossible to know the scale and nature of trafficking here. Whilst we welcome the Scottish Government's consideration of a statutory human trafficking criminal aggravation, there should be more efforts to pursue full prosecutions as in England and Wales.
"The Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee’s own report into Trafficking and Migration, published in 2010, recommended that a Scottish referral mechanism be set up which places the welfare of the potentially trafficked individual above all else.
“We were disappointed that this recommendation was not taken up and would urge the Scottish Government to lead the way in tackling this form of modern-day slavery and adopt the Committee’s recommendation. We need to ensure that traffickers are pursued vigorously and that it is the welfare of the victim which is the primary concern. We also need to ensure that individuals showing signs of being trafficked are identified early and given the support they need.”
Following the publication of the inspection report into the UK's Detained Fast Track (DFT) asylum procedures, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified a number of key concerns with how these procedures operate.
These concerns include:
Vulnerable asylum seekers are wrongly held in detention
UNHCR is of the view that safeguards to identify vulnerable and traumatised individuals are inadequate. A quarter of individuals who enter the DFT are later released, most of whom are referred to organisations caring for victims of torture. However, even among those who remain within the DFT, UNHCR has identified vulnerable people and applicants with complex cases which are not suitable for being decided quickly. This includes individuals who claim to be victims of rape or trafficking.
Deprivation of liberty
Although claims in the DFT are expected to be decided between seven and ten days, the Government’s current policy leaves open the possibility for detention to exceed this period and even, to be of unlimited duration. UNHCR considers that depriving an individual of their liberty for reasons of administrative convenience risks breaching international human rights principles.
There is insufficient time for accurate decision-making
Detention and the speed of the DFT affect the fairness of a procedure which determines whether or not a person will be protected or sent home. The short time frame means that both UKBA decision makers and applicants lack sufficient time to prepare for the asylum interview. The determination of asylum claims is a complex procedure which requires time and consideration on the part of the decision maker to gather evidence, including the information available on the situation in an applicant’s country, and to assess the credibility of the claim. Furthermore, asylum seekers who have had traumatic experiences and possible mental health issues may require time to establish trust and confidence to disclose their stories to the authorities.
Glasgow Caledonian University lecturer Dr Kiril Sharapov, an expert in the field of human trafficking, is to undertake the biggest study ever into the public’s attitude towards the problem – and how consumers’ spending habits contribute towards it.
Dr Sharapov says that there is a widespread misconception that human trafficking is only associated with the illegal sex trade, where people are forced into prostitution after being trafficked across borders.
He believes a growing demand for cheap goods and services, and lack of public awareness of trafficking, obscure our concern for the welfare of the migrant workers involved. Such demand and lack of awareness fuel the exploitation of migrant workers, many of whom work in a wide variety of everyday situations, including care homes, hotels, construction, the service industry and the UK’s meat and poultry processing sector.
“Trafficking is not just the issue of badly controlled borders, or economic migrants or criminals. It should be looked at from the perspective of why people are smuggled and trafficked here – there is a demand for cheap and exploitable labour. The rising costs of energy and raw materials and the continuing economic downturn are having a direct impact on the price of consumer goods,” said Dr Sharapov.
“This creates downward pressure on wages and an increasing demand for cheap labour that can be easily intimidated, for example by physical violence, threats of deportation or to the security of family back home, and exploited.”
Dr Sharapov’s work will focus on the UK (where people are trafficked to), Ukraine (where people are trafficked from) and Hungary (where people are trafficked through).
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has launched the findings from its inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland. The inquiry focused on trafficking for the purposes of forced labour, domestic servitude and criminal exploitation, but more explicitly on commercial sexual exploitation....
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