The lost child in the complex UK’s immigration system - The Human Trafficking Awareness Index for April 2014
08 May 2014 12:00 am by Claire Barker
Current Trafficking Awareness – United Kingdom – May 2014
The LexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index™ data model highlights emerging trends and patterns of awareness within and across national borders. The Index uses the respected Nexis® service to track and analyse the volume of articles related to human trafficking. Using a licensed collection of almost 6,000 of the most influential news sources from more than 120 countries, the HTA Index highlights emerging trends and patterns of awareness within and across national borders. Activists working to combat human trafficking can use this information to highlight and raise awareness to inform their efforts and gain greater understanding of the news.
The Human Trafficking Awareness Index for the UK stands at 106%, representing 355 trafficking-related articles published by the British and Irish media during May 2014 compared to 374 the previous month. Of that total, 78 articles (nearly 22%) were in relation to Child Trafficking.
The Modern Slavery Bill
The Index highlighted a press release from The Office of Equality and Human Rights Commission, distributed by UK Government News on April 28. ‘The Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, recommending that the UK Government use its Modern Slavery Bill as an opportunity to better protect the rights of child victims and punish offenders.’
The Press Association article on April 8 quotes Karen Bradley, minister for slavery and organised crime, describing modern slavery as “an appalling evil and the Home Secretary and I are committed to stamping it out. The Modern Slavery Bill, the first of its kind in Europe, represents an historic opportunity to get new legislation on the statute books.”
However, the Government’s much anticipated Modern Slavery Bill is coming under scrutiny. It offers a welcome development to help tackle issues of slavery, but perceived gaps in the proposed legislation mean those who recruit vulnerable children, or harbour or receive children for the purposes of exploitation, may still go unpunished.
The bill, as currently drafted, will not achieve what it must
On April 8, the guardian.co.uk published details from the committee tasked with scrutinising the draft Modern Slavery Bill. ‘In an often blunt report, the parliamentary joint select committee on the modern slavery bill urges the government, law enforcement agencies and businesses to do more to fight slavery and protect its victims. “We applaud the stated aims of this bill - and the home secretary's wish to take the battle to the slave masters and traffickers - but we are concerned that this bill as currently drafted will not achieve what it must,” said Baroness Butler-Sloss, one of the committee members.'
'The committee notes that modern slavery in the UK ranges from the exploitation of adults and children in the sex industry to forced labour, domestic servitude and such forced criminal activities as cannabis farming. It says victims include British schoolchildren, children brought to the UK for benefit fraud and those who are trafficked or come to the country legitimately and voluntarily only to find themselves subsequently enslaved.'
The committee has called for the founding of a statutory system of children’s advocates and a requirement for quoted companies to report on their own measure to eradicate slavery from their supply chains stating that, ‘without major changes … the present bill will do little to address the difficulties in securing convictions against traffickers and slave masters’.
Human rights are for everyone
The UK Government News article ‘Commission Publishes Advice to United Nations Committee on Tackling Child Trafficking in UK’ published on April 28 contained a quote from EHRC Commissioner, Sarah Veale:
"The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international human rights treaty that focuses on fairness, dignity, respect and freedom for children in all areas of life. Human rights are for everyone, and there is a particular importance that society protects the rights of children who are often not able to speak up for themselves.
"The UK is one of 193 countries that have signed up to the Convention and by doing so it is obliged to protect and fulfil children's rights. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, supplements the Convention and aims to protect the most vulnerable by tackling the exploitation and abuse of children.
"Since the last periodic review by the Committee, the Government has made efforts to tackle key issues such as child trafficking and forced labour but there is still further scope for improvement in a number of areas which we have highlighted."
Resolving immigration issues
On 28 January, the Department for Education published a consultation on draft regulations and statutory guidance for local authorities on the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked children. In the consultation, which closed on 25 March, the DfE sought views on the proposed regulations and guidance, particularly on the question of whether the proposed measures would help local authorities to plan and care for unaccompanied and trafficked children.
Children Now’s article, published April 15, notes ‘A local authority’s duties to looked-after children under the Children Act 1989 apply equally to all children, irrespective of immigration status, but these children often have additional, complex needs.’ The proposed DfE regulations and guidance on unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked children are acknowledged as a welcome step in recognising these needs. However, it notes that the draft guidance, while helpful, is fairly general and does not adequately distinguish the steps to be taken in cases of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from those of child victims of trafficking. The article concludes: ‘Overall, the publication of new guidance and regulations will be a welcome step forward, but they could go further in ensuring the protection of all children with immigration issues in the care of local authorities.'
As The Equality and Human Rights Commission press release notes ‘Approximately 60% of child victims go missing from local authority care. Two thirds are never found; those that are, tend to be in the hands of the criminals who trafficked them. The Commission is concerned that the Government does not believe it is necessary to appoint Guardians to help protect the rights of these child victims, even though this protection is required by international law.’
This excellent handbook from LexisNexis will not only contribute to a better understanding of the challenges presented by human trafficking but it will become "an indispensable resource for all concerned with combating this pernicious trade." (Sir Nicolas Bratza, European Court of Human Rights)