Trafficking: Convention ratification welcomed but more protection needed
Posted: 17 December 2008
Warning that vulnerable people will still be at risk
In response to news that the UK Government has ratified an important anti-trafficking convention, Amnesty International has welcomed the move but called for more to be done to help the victims of trafficking.
This afternoon the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced the government's ratification of the European Convention Against Trafficking In Human Beings (ECAT). The UK's ratification should mean that for the first time victims of trafficking - including people who have been forced into prostitution - will be entitled to a recovery period, specialist care, accommodation and other services.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
'Today is an important day in the battle against ruthless traffickers who prey on men, women and children and we welcome the government's support for the anti-trafficking convention.
'People who have been trafficked are often amongst the most traumatised victims of any crime and they desperately need skilled and compassionate professionals to help them deal with their ordeals.
'However, the measures being proposed don't go far enough. We need to ensure that NGOs and other specialists are fully involved (especially in identifying victims), we need longer recovery periods, guaranteed residency permits and more and properly-funded accommodation for often traumatised survivors of trafficking.
'We'll be watching very carefully now to see that the government's promises to help trafficking victims are actually being met.'
Amnesty, which has long campaigned for ECAT ratification to a high standard to help guarantee protection for trafficked people, is warning that the government's ratification package risks failing trafficking victims.
For example, the government is set to provide victims with a 45-day 'reflection' period to meet their health and recovery needs. While ECAT suggests that countries provide - as an absolute minimum - a 30-day reflection period, Amnesty is calling for 90 days because of the extreme complexity of many cases - a view backed by the parliamentary joint committee on human rights and leading academic experts.
Other key failings are the lack of accommodation for trafficking victims - with England and Scotland both having only one specialist care and accommodation centre for trafficked women - and insufficient measures to prevent the detention of trafficking victims in prisons and immigration detention centres.
Amnesty is also stressing to government the importance of establishing good systems for identifying victims of trafficking at the earliest opportunity. If specialist organisations are given a formal role in identification procedures, Amnesty believes this will offer the best chance of trafficking victims receiving vital early care, of avoiding detention and of falling back into the hands of criminal trafficking gangs.
Kate Allen added:
'When you remember that some trafficking victims have suffered grotesque physical and mental abuse in prison-like conditions, it's totally unacceptable that some are still being treated as offenders and not as vulnerable victims.
'The government has simply got to put in place robust identification systems to ensure that trafficked people are not detained and do not fall prey to trafficking gangs all over again.'
Amnesty recently published a briefing on the extent of trafficking in Scotland, which similarly emphasised the significance of victims receiving appropriate support and accommodation from specially-trained staff.