Britain is being urged to join European efforts to tackle human trafficking.
London has so far been reluctant to opt into an EU directive that seeks to create common, Europe-wide legislation and send a united message to traffickers.
Campaigners voiced their “frustration, anger and despair” at what they see as an “ill-considered policy” on human trafficking in a letter sent to the government last month. They have repeated their calls this week at the launch of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of Human Trafficking.
Klára Skřivánková, a member of the fund’s board and trafficking programme co-ordinator for the NGO Anti-Slavery spoke at the launch.
“It would be very unfortunate if the UK didn’t opt in to the EU directive on human trafficking, because one of the aims of the directive is to create standards in dealing with trafficking across the whole of the EU especially in the criminal justice system,” she said.
The new EU directive, passed in December, bolsters efforts and imposes stiffer penalties against human traffickers. It requires member states to provide witness protection to victims, as well as accommodation, medical and legal assistance. It recognises different forms of trafficking, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, begging, removal of organs, illegal adoption and forced marriages.
“By creating the same standards, Europe can take much stronger steps in stamping out trafficking, especially in dealing with the criminal networks,” Skřivánková said. “It’s important that all 27 states apply these standards and send out the message that they’re working together.”
If one state does not participate, the message to those who commit the crime is that “they’re not collaborating enough to try to dismantle the crime,” she added.
Jaee Samant, Director of Crime at the Home Office (the British interior ministry), told euronews that the text of the directive was “being considered” but declined to comment on the timing or possibility of its adoption.
Human trafficking has a global market value of $32 billion (23 billion euros), according to UN estimates. It takes place across the globe, in many cases unnoticed. The UN estimates show that at any one time 140,000 people are trapped across Europe. The International Labour Organisation says 2.4 million people throughout the world are lured into forced labour.
By Ali Sheikholeslami and Mark Davis