Human Trafficking

This website was designed by Joyce Watson AM to provide an electronic means for people, politicians and practitioners to exchange knowledge, information and expertise on the issue of human trafficking.

Definition of Human Trafficking

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, contains the first internationally agreed upon definition of human trafficking. Section 3 states:

“Trafficking in persons” is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation…

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

The consent of a victim of trafficking to the intended exploitation … shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in [above] have been used. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set [above]. “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

Overview of Human Trafficking

“Sadly, there are thousands who are trapped in various forms of enslavement, here in our country … oftentimes young women who are caught up in prostitution. So, we’ve got to give prosecutors the tools to crack down on these human trafficking networks. Internationally, we’ve got to speak out. It is a debasement of our common humanity, whenever we see something like that taking place.” President Obama, 9th US Trafficking in Persons Report June 2009

Human trafficking is the modern equivalent of slavery. It is estimated that there are approximately 27 million slaves around the world. According to UN reports, people are being trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries across the world, affecting every type of economy.

The ILO has assesed that at least 12.3 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour, with the UN assessing that around 2.5 million of these are as a result of human trafficking. Other estimates from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for example put the figures even higher, with it estimated that up to four million women, children and men are trafficked each year.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime considers people trafficking as the fastest growing means by which people are enslaved, the fastest growing international crime, and one of the largest sources of income for organised crime. Trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business, and by its very disguised and hidden nature the precise statistics on trafficking are very difficult to estimate. The Council of Europe have made clear that; “People trafficking has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion.“

The International Organization for Migration (IMO) has put the majority of trafficking victims as between 18 and 24 years of age, with UNICEF estimating that around 1.2 million children are being trafficked each year for purposes of sexual exploitation. Of those victims used for forced sexual exploitation it is estimated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that 98% are women and girls. Women and girls trafficked for labour exploitation also frequently encounter and endure sexual violence, with estimates that 95% of victims experience physical or sexual violence during trafficking.

Common abuses experienced by trafficked persons include rape, torture, debt bondage, unlawful confinement, and threats against their family or other persons close to them as well as other forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence.

The IMO has made clear that:

“The demand for cheap labour, sexual services and certain criminal activities are root causes of trafficking. Poverty of opportunity and resources, as well as a lack of social power are other contributing factors.“

Trafficking impacts people of all backgrounds, and people are trafficked for a variety of purposes. Men are often trafficked into hard labour jobs, while children are trafficked into labour positions in textile, agriculture and fishing industries. Women and girls are typically trafficked into the commercial sex industry ie prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation.

Overview of Human Trafficking in the UK

In 2003, the Home Office estimated that around 4,000 women in the UK had been trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and the market for human trafficking for sexual exploitation was estimated to be worth around £275m in 2003 (Home Office figures).

However as is the case internationally, by its very disguised and hidden nature the precise statistics on trafficking in the UK are very difficult to estimate. In recent evidence given to the Human Rights Joint Committee – Minutes of Evidence Human Trafficking – Alan Campbell MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, stated the following:

“It is a very difficult issue, partly of course because trafficking is an illegal activity. It is very difficult to judge the quantity of that. If you are talking about women coming to this country for sexual exploitation, it is difficult enough to get a firm hold on how many women and girls are involved in the sex industry, how many of them are involved in it of their own free will, how many of them are coerced and how many of them are trafficked.“

In 2007 Barnardo’s carried out a scoping exercise on the scale of internal trafficking around the UK. From the evidence gathered in their report it appears that the tactic of moving young people from one location to another in the UK through the method of internal trafficking, is a core technique adopted by many adults who seek to sexually exploit children. For this survey, 9 Barnardo’s services had direct knowledge and 6 services had indirect knowledge of young people who had experienced internal trafficking. Only two Barnardo’s services had no knowledge of young people being internally trafficked (A Summary report mapping the scale of internal trafficking in the UK based on a survey of Barnardo’s anti-sexual exploitation and missing services, 2007).

Individual NGOs, local authorities, the devolved governments as well as other charitable organisations have worked and continue to work in this field. For example, the NSPCC has a dedicated child trafficking advice and information line (CTAIL) that is sponsored by Comic Relief and the Home Office.

There have been two major police operations specifically to tackle trafficking in women and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation in the UK. Operation Pentameter I took place in 2006. Its main purpose was to rescue women who had been trafficked. The Operation successfully rescued dozens of women and children from different massage parlours and brothels around the country. Pentameter II took place in 2007-08 and several dozen women and children were rescued during a six month period.

The UK government has initiated a Blue Blindfold campaign in order to have an internationally-recognised symbol and uniform message that trafficking in human beings can happen in any town, community or even workplace. It targets four main groups in order to raise awareness: the victims of trafficking, the law enforcement community, the general public and key professionals working in the health and social services field (among others) who could identify victims of trafficking at an early stage.

Overview of Trafficking in Wales

The exact number of cases of human trafficking in Wales, as with the rest of the United Kingdom, is unclear. By its very nature the practice is secretive and uncovering cases of the trafficking of women or children in areas which have little or no previous experience in this area is extremely challenging. Two aspects, however, are very clear: the nature of human trafficking in Wales is evolving and trafficking in Wales does not occur exclusively in urban areas. SOCA operations in rural West Wales revealed the emergence of trafficking gangs moving women from Ireland to West Wales for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

The recent Children’s Commissioner for Wales Report Bordering on Concern (Children’s Commissioner for Wales, 2009) revealed that there was evidence of children being trafficked for both sexual exploitation and forced labour into, within and out of Wales, including towns in South Wales. The report highlighted concern around 45 children, and 32 of these ticked all the high risk categories of being trafficked.

The need to act decisively and immediately to combat human trafficking in Wales is founded upon evidence from other countries which suggests that trafficking for sexual exploitation increases significantly for major sporting events such as the Olympics. Greece licensed a large number of additional brothels in the months leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and mega-brothels were installed near the German football stadia during the football World Cup in 2006. It has been suggested that it is therefore highly likely that the Olympics as well as other major sporting events to be held in Wales, such as golf’s Ryder Cup in Newport this October, will attract a significant increase in the number of women and children trafficked for the sex trade as demand increases.

Knowing No Boundaries – Local Solutions to an International Crime: Trafficking of Women and Children in Wales 2010

In May 2010 Chair of the Cross Party Working Group on Trafficking in Women and Children, Joyce Watson AM launched her report, Local Solutions to an International Crime: Trafficking of Women and Children in Wales 2010, based on the work by the Cross Party Working Group. The findings of the report can be found here. An extract of Chapter 2 of the report – A Picture of Trafficking of Women and Children in Wales – can be found below.

Chapter 2 – A Picture of Trafficking of Women and Children in Wales (Knowing No Boundaries – Local Solutions to an International Crime: Trafficking of Women and Children in Wales 2010)

In its evidence to the Cross-Party Working Group on Trafficking of Women and Children, Black Association of Women Step Out Ltd (BAWSO) stated that it had supported four trafficked women over recent years and had been involved in a number of cases relating to trafficking. It made several recommendations relating to practical solutions to aid victims of trafficking in Wales. These include training provision, exchange of information and experience, an all Wales referral procedure protocol, dedicated funding streams and awareness-raising campaigns.

Following evidence given to the Cross-Party Group, Joyce Watson AM, Chair of the Cross-Party Working Group, sent questionnaires to all 22 local authorities, asking them to provide detailed feedback on the authorities’ experience of trafficking; any protocols/reports/codes of practices they use or have developed; service provision in line with the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings; their experience of the 45 day reflection period; experience of internal trafficking; and any staff training they have undertaken.

Of the 22 local authorities in Wales, twenty responded to the questionnaire. The principal messages to emerge from the responses received are listed under subheadings below.

The number of suspected cases of human trafficking in Wales dealt with by Local Authorities

The total number of proven or suspected cases of human trafficking outlined in the responses is 15. These cases come from local authorities from across every kind of geographical and social landscape in Wales and does not include cases from a local authority covering a major city which described the issue of trafficking as ‘nothing new’. The secretive and underground nature of trafficking ensured that 15 is in all probability a significant underestimate, however that the cases were spread across the country demonstrates that human trafficking is a nation-wide concern.

Areas of good practice

A number of the responses received demonstrated that the local authority in question had made great efforts to both combat the issue of human trafficking within the area where it has responsibility and to care for the victims concerned.

One local authority stated that it had established a Safeguarding Children Board which facilitated a Multi-Agency Practitioner Forum on issues relating to unaccompanied asylum children and child trafficking. The Board also ‘considered research into child trafficking undertaken by Save the Children, as well as reports published by the Children’s Commissioner.’ The same local authority provided Level 1 and 2 Sexual Exploitation Training to its staff which was delivered on a multi-agency basis four to five times per year.

At a separate local authority, a Child Sexual Exploitation Group holds regular meetings to share information and monitor the effectiveness of relevant policies and protocols. It recognises that awareness-raising and training on a multi-agency level are essential, and work is undertaken to clarify roles and remits of organisations which are first to respond for adults who might have been trafficked.

One local authority noted that it had established an arrangement whereby pupils in year 8 at school are taught of the nature of human trafficking and its effects, whilst in a different local authority a Lead Officer ‘facilitates a working group on trafficking with a view to drawing up procedures, raising awareness and co-ordinating training on trafficked children.’

These are all examples of local authorities demonstrating an understanding of what needs to be done to eradicate human trafficking from the area over which it has responsibility. The emphasis on a multi-agency approach, as well as on the importance of relevant training and a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking amongst the general public, is crucial to combating the issue. Such expertise would benefit other local authorities whose responses demonstrated that the good practice concerning human trafficking is not consistently applied across Wales.

A mixed pictureIt is evident that some local authorities demonstrated proactive, decisive action taken by them as noted above. However in a few cases there existed a level of less effective practice and a failure to address the situation of human trafficking effectively. This may be due to the fact that training is needed and guidance made clearer to those involved.

One local authority described how a minor was criminalised despite all the authorities involved being uncertain of his legal status. This demonstrates a lack of unity of purpose by all involved. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly includes a devotion to the best interests of the child. Had this been adhered to the outcome for this child would have and should have been different.

‘We recently had one example of a Vietnamese young male who was found working in an illegal drugs factory who may have been subject to child trafficking. Unfortunately the young person was subject to [a] criminal investigation which has limited the support the local authority has been able to offer. The case has highlighted that we still have further work to do around multi-agency working for trafficked children.’

As the extract above outlines, all the local authorities involved in this case were inadequately equipped to deal effectively with an instance of child trafficking and consequently the victim was criminalised. The Welsh Assembly Government places the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at the centre of its children-related policy. This guidance was not followed in this instance.

A further example of a local authority demonstrating it is not well equipped to effectively address a case of a suspected victim of trafficking is outlined below:

‘During the past five years there have been two cases…known to the Local Authority where Trafficking issues were identified. In these two cases the young people arrived on the same transport and were picked up by the police; they were accommodated in Local Authority foster placements.

One young person following an assessment…was considered to be an adult and he was transferred to the UK Border Agency.

The second young person went missing from his foster home placement and to date has not been located.’

That the local authority concerned failed to keep a trafficked child safe once he was in its care demonstrates that there is a need to ensure that the good practice which is apparent in other local authorities in Wales is transferred across the board. Had the local authority concerned in this case been prepared and sufficiently alert to the nature of human trafficking and the risk of a child once more falling into the hands of traffickers, it is possible that this may have been prevented.

In a separate area, it is the police alone who oversee issues concerning human trafficking and updates the relevant local authority once they have dealt with the matter. This evidently does not illustrate an effective approach on behalf of the local authority to tackle the issue. Once more, the co-ordination of best practice would ensure that the local authority in this case would be better prepared and able to address human trafficking in its area of responsibility.

Local Authorities unprepared for dealing with human traffickingWhilst in the cases noted above some effort has been made to tackle human trafficking, some responses received demonstrated an unawareness of the problem and local authorities had taken few steps to combat the issue. In one case, the local authority commented that ‘having had Child Trafficking drawn to our attention, we shall raise this as a matter for further discussion… We do not know what the position is in relation to other agencies working within the area and this is a matter we shall address.’ The same local authority claimed that the road networks rendered the area unsuitable for traffickers, demonstrating a total lack of understanding that human trafficking knows no boundaries and is prevalent in rural areas as it is in urban areas.

A further local authority claimed that ‘Child Trafficking is not an item on our current training plan but this is being kept under review.’

It could be argued that the local authorities in the cases noted above would benefit from a co-ordinated awareness-raising campaign as well as a uniform training strategy so as to be better equipped for potential cases of human trafficking.

The difficulty in detecting instances of human traffickingAs noted by the Minister for Local Government and Social Justice, Carl Sargeant, in The Right to be Safe, ‘women affected by these issues are often difficult to reach and the problem is largely hidden.’ The secretive nature of human trafficking ensures that its detection and uncovering is challenging, particularly when an authority has limited or no experience of identifying or tackling the issue. One local authority stated the difficulty in preventing trafficking from occurring in its response:

‘This is a complex and sensitive area of work, in which it can be difficult to ascertain information. Perpetrators of the offence are likely to take particular care to avoid being detected.’

Moreover, a separate local authority noted that the evolving nature of child trafficking lead to increased difficulties in bringing an end to the practice:

‘The increase in the migrant population appears to have added an extra dimension, as well as increase in referrals… Previously trafficking occurred mainly for reasons of sexual exploitation… more recently we have found that domestic servitude, benefit fraud, forced labour, forced marriage and cannabis cultivation are added to the reasons for trafficking .’

The changing nature of human trafficking necessitates a deeper understanding and awareness if efforts to eradicate and deal with it are to be affective. It is essential that agencies firstly recognise the change in motive for trafficking and secondly are well equipped to deal effectively when it occurs. This is clearly a demanding task for each local authority to undertake individually. It is plausible to argue that the most efficient manner of remaining aware of the changing trends in human trafficking would be to provide an online knowledge bank that can be easily accessed twenty fours hours a day. Local authorities will be able to share updated information amongst themselves and with other agencies. Through combining the knowledge and experiences of each local authority and other agencies, it would be possible to gain a clearer understanding of the evolution of human trafficking and ways in which to tackle it.

Guidance followed by local authorities in tackling human traffickingThe questionnaire sent by Joyce Watson to local authorities asked for their experience in providing services as outlined in The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The number of replies which stated that they were aware of this guidance available to them demonstrates the high level engagement by local authorities towards tackling human trafficking. However, the sources of information which local authorities contacted when dealing with a case of human trafficking were:

  • All Wales Child Protection Procedures
  • Immigration Services
  • London Safeguarding Children Board Toolkit
  • Refugee Children Advice and Information Worker
  • Save the Children
  • Special Branch unit
  • The Children’s Commissioner for Wales
  • The Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings
  • The Police
  • The SOLACE report
  • The Wales Strategic Migration Partnership
  • The Welsh Assembly Government

That local authorities contacted several organisations when dealing with a case of human trafficking demonstrates that guidance is not universally adhered to. The All Wales Trafficking Director would be responsible for encouraging best practice through alerting local authorities to applicable guidance, as well as offering support to help them implement this guidance. This would be an ongoing requirement and would aid local authorities to be best equipped to tackle human trafficking.

The recommendations outlined in this report are based on the issues raised in the responses received from the local authorities, as well as the evidence given at the Cross-Party Group on Trafficking of Women and Children. One local authority stated:

‘It has been identified that LSCB across Wales require additional support and guidance in terms of delivering training and raising awareness… The provision of specialist support services for trafficked children is always a challenge for small local authorities.’

A number of other local authorities commented that they look to the Welsh Assembly Government to provide clear guidance on the issue of human trafficking. The Welsh Assembly Government has issued guidance (WAG (2008), ‘Safeguarding Children who may have been Trafficked’) that deals with children more generally and will undoubtedly help authorities to be more confident when faced with trafficked individuals. It is evident, therefore, that the sharing of expertise and experiences between local authorities would benefit all concerned and in particular smaller authorities which may struggle to commit resources.

The establishment of an All Wales Trafficking Director would play a crucial role in overcoming the challenges and shortcomings of local authorities as noted above. The proactive role that several authorities have played having recognised the prevalence of human trafficking is highly commendable and extremely valuable. The most effective way of utilising these resources is through giving the Director the responsibility of ensuring that best practice is followed throughout Wales, rather than simply in parts of Wales.

©© 2011 Human Trafficking in Wales