It is difficult to make an accurate assessment of the number of people trafficked into the UK for sexual or labour exploitation and particularly by reference to the year and country of origin. An indicator of the number of victims involved in this type of trafficking is the number of referrals to the Poppy project. Since the scheme's inception in 2003 a total of 184 women who met the criteria for the project have been referred to it (out of a total of 451 referrals between March 2003 and the end of March 2006). However, the scheme operates mainly in London and has tightly focused criteria, so the number of victims nationwide is likely to be higher. A breakdown of the country of origin for women who met the criteria for the Poppy project follows. Operation Pentameter, a police-led, multi-agency initiative aimed at tackling the trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation has resulted in the rescue of 75 women since its launch on the 21 February. These cases are subject to on-going investigation and as such it would not be appropriate to disclose the country of origin of the potential trafficking victims. The Home Office has commissioned CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre, to conduct an intelligence gathering exercise to scope the problem of child trafficking in the UK; initial findings are expected in the autumn.
There is currently little information on the scale of trafficking for labour exploitation and officials are considering ways in which our knowledge can be improved. Illegal working statistics may provide some indication of the possible size of the illegal working market. Statistical returns are provided on a monthly basis by local enforcement offices, showing the breakdown by nationality of those encountered during illegal working operations. There is currently no facility available to record whether those encountered have been trafficked for the purpose of labour exploitation. However, following are statistics available for illegal working operations for each financial year since 2002 with the top five nationalities identified (figures are not available prior to 2002). 2002-03—A total of 301 operations were reported; a total of 1,099 offenders were encountered. Poland, Lithuania, Brazil, Ukraine and Pakistan were the top five nationalities identified in descending order. 2003-04—A total of 697 operations were reported in 2003-04; a total of 2,304 offenders were encountered. Brazil, Poland, Lithuania, Bangladesh and Ukraine were the top five nationalities identified in descending order. 2004-05—A total of 3,314 operations were reported in 2004-05; a total of 9,227 offenders were encountered. Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Brazil were the top five nationalities identified in descending order.
In April the Home Office entered into a two-year, £2.4 million funding agreement with Eaves Housing for Women for the expansion of the Poppy project. This funding will not only provide for the existing crisis provision service for up to 25 women, it will also meet the costs of 10 additional “step-down” places which will help the women to live semi-independently with less intensive support, and the development of a resource pack for victims, service providers and law enforcement agency staff. It will also introduce the first ever specialist national outreach service in the UK for victims trafficked into sexual exploitation. Whilst the project remains London based it will continue to take referrals from across the country and provide a national service. We are currently looking at how best to utilise other existing local service providers to support victims and will continue to consider the feasibility of further extending the Poppy model of support to other areas in the future.
The Government have no centrally collated data on the number of children trafficked into the UK. The Home Office recognises there is an urgent need to improve its intelligence on this issue and for this reason have commissioned a scoping project in partnership with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOPS) to estimate the scale and nature of the problem including source countries. Additionally newly established Minors Intelligence Teams based at Croydon and Liverpool Asylum screening units now provide monthly reports on children who have been identified as being at risk including those that they believe have been trafficked.
The Government have taken a number of steps to deter child trafficking into the UK. They have, for example, strengthened the legislative framework by including the offence of trafficking children in the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 and the Asylum and Immigration Act, 2004. Additionally, the Sexual Offences Act introduced new offences of “abuse of children through prostitution and pornography” which aim to protect children under the age of 18. The law enforcement response to human trafficking is co-ordinated by Reflex, the multi agency task force on organised immigration crime, established in 2000. Reflex has been working closely with police forces in the regions to increase awareness of human trafficking and build capacity to tackle it. A key thrust of its activity is to develop our intelligence base, thereby improving our knowledge and understanding of the extent and nature of child trafficking within the UK. The establishment of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) on 1 April 2006 brings a renewed focus on improving intelligence and targeting those organised crime groups causing the most harm. The previous Home Secretary (Mr. Clarke) made clear in his letter to all chief constables, in June 2005, that police forces should increase their efforts against organised immigration crime, focusing particularly on human trafficking. A national action plan is being developed this year incorporating the responses from the UK consultation on tackling human trafficking. The action plan will include measures to deter child trafficking. Responses to the plan from stakeholders are currently being collated with a view to publishing a summary report of these on 21 June 2006. The Government are increasing their engagement with developing countries in helping to eradicate the root causes of trafficking such as poverty, social exclusion, discrimination against women, girls and inequality. The Government are working with several overseas countries to prevent human trafficking by helping to tackle poverty and removing the conditions that lead to forced migration. The Government are also seeking to build the capacity of these countries to combat trafficking by improving ways of stemming the problem. Through our embassies and consulates we are working to raise awareness in source countries on the dangers of trafficking among potential victims.
Children who have been identified as having been trafficked and who are considered to be at risk are looked after by local authorities under section 20 of the 1989 Children Act. The arrangements for trafficked children as for other children in need in the UK are matters for local authorities to decide based on careful analysis of the risks, the needs and the circumstances facing that particular child.
The Home Office National Asylum Seekers Service (NASS) is conducting a review together with the Department for Education and Skills, to ensure that safe arrangements for lone asylum-seeking children who have been assessed as being at risk from traffickers can be incorporated in those for other unaccompanied foreign national minors in need of support. This work will be carried out in partnership with the most knowledgeable and experienced local authorities. Her Majesty’s Government are aware that children returned to certain countries could be put at risk of further harm, with the likelihood of being re-trafficked. As a general principle, therefore, children will only be returned, where it is considered both possible and safe to do so and only after a full assessment of each case has been thoroughly carried out. Before considering the return of a child, full consideration is given to the Government’s obligations under the immigration laws and the European Convention on Human Rights and the unique circumstances of each case including an assessment of the country of origin.
My right hon. Friend Tony McNulty, along with Lord Goldsmith attended the G8 meeting on 15 and 16 of June the agenda for which included human trafficking. The Government are actively involved in discussions on how to tackle trafficking with other EU countries as part of the EU Action Plan which we initiated. We will keep under review the need for bilateral discussions as and when they arise.
The UK has met its international obligations with the introduction of a range of offences covering trafficking into or out of the UK for sexual exploitation under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and Section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. With regard to trafficking for non-sexual exploitation, the UK is compliant with the framework decision following the introduction of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004, the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2004 and relevant sections of the Immigration and Asylum Act 2006. An explanatory memorandum to this effect was cleared from scrutiny in the Lords on 13 June.
UN Office on Drugs and Crime trafficking trends database collects a wide range of open source information on trafficking including both qualitative and quantitative information provided by the UK Government. The information provided by the UK Government includes estimates of the volume of trafficking by country, details of trafficking cases dealt with by the criminal justice system, characteristic profiles of victims/ traffickers and details of trafficking routes.