(2) what schemes are in operation to assist women who have escaped prostitution and who were originally trafficked into the UK;
(3) what steps he is taking to prevent human trafficking in the UK; and what progress is being made in prosecuting those who participate in the trade.
Reflex, the multi-agency Government taskforce on organised immigration crime was set up in March 2000 and has been successful at disrupting organised immigration crime gangs leading to a large number of arrests and seizure of criminal assets. The co-ordination of enforcement work on human trafficking has now moved on with the establishment of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the UK Human Trafficking Centre in 2006.
Reflex under SOCA continues to result in the disruption of organised crime gangs involved in trafficking women for sexual exploitation and has a number of multi-agency programmes of activity in this area. These programmes build on the strategies developed under Reflex. Organised Immigration Crime is SOCA’s second priority after drug trafficking.
The Government have funded the POPPY project since March 2003 to provide safe shelter and support to assist in the recovery of adult female victims who have been trafficked into the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
The Government’s strategy to prevent human trafficking has a number of different elements. These include research and intelligence gathering to improve our knowledge and understanding of the scale and nature of human trafficking in the UK; awareness raising and capacity building in source and transit countries; and measures designed to address the demand for trafficked persons.
The Government are also working with source countries to tackle the problem of trafficking at its root. We have provided funds for various anti-trafficking projects in the Western Balkans region, West Africa (including Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Niger and Togo) and in the Greater Mekong region (parts of Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam).
The UK Action on tackling human trafficking published on 23 March 2007 provides further details of the work being undertaken across Government to tackle human trafficking.
The majority of our knowledge regarding the extent of human trafficking in the UK relates to trafficking for sexual exploitation. It remains difficult to make an accurate assessment of the extent of the problem although intelligence suggests there has been an increase in the trafficking problem over the last two or three years. The findings from a Home Office research paper suggests that at any one time in 2003 there were in the region of 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK. In 2006, a police led multi agency operation on trafficking for sexual exploitation led to the identification of 87 victims from 22 different countries, predominantly from Eastern Europe, China/South-East Asia, Africa or Brazil.