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Human Exploitation And Forced Marriages

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to help the international community eradicate (a) the commercial sexual exploitation of children, (b) trafficking in persons, (c) forced marriages, (d) bonded and forced labour, (e) debt bondage and (f) serfdom. [113703]

The Government are working with the International Labour Organisation and other UN bodies, NGOs and governments to combat the diverse forms of contemporary slavery, such as forced or bonded labour, debt bondage and serfdom. The UK has ratified the key international legal instruments that outlaw slavery: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Slavery Convention, and ILO Conventions 29 and 105 on Forced Labour. We are promoting the widest possible ratification and practical implementation of these. We have also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and intend to ratify once domestic legislation is in place.The FCO finances a number of projects to promote the rights of the child and to combat contemporary forms of slavery. This year projects include an Anti-Slavery International initiative to end the use of child camel jockeys, and a project to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Tajikistan.In 2002, the FCO and the National Hi Tech Crime Unit provided 10 countries with equipment and training to investigate on-line child abusers. The project has resulted in a number of convictions and we expect to extend it to another 10 countries this year. UK law enforcement agencies work closely with partners in source, transit and destination countries to detect, prevent and prosecute organised criminal gangs that traffic in humans for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2003 the Government provided an additional £60 million to combat organised immigration crime.The UK was one of the first signatories to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the two associated protocols against the facilitation of illegal immigraticn and for the prevention of trafficking in human beings, especially women and children. This requires signatories to ensure trafficking is a punishable offence, alongside the introduction of prevention, education and support initiatives for victims. We plan to ratify the Convention and the Protocol later this year and are encouraging those countries that have not yet signed the Convention or protocols to do so.The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, introduced a new offence of "trafficking a person for the purpose of controlling him or her in prostitution." This ensures there is a serious criminal sanction against traffickers, and is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. We wall introduce legislation on new offences covering human trafficking for labour exploitation as soon as parliamentary time allows.In 2000, the FCO set up a dedicated unit to tackle the issue of forced marriage. The Unit has handled over 500 cases and repatriated over 100 victims. The Unit works with NGOs, police and judiciary in the UK and overseas. It carries out preventative work in the UK, developing guidelines for the police and social services, increasing public awareness, and achieving wide media coverage.