Scotland: Amnesty International applauds UK Government decision to sign European Convention Against Trafficking

Reacting to the news that the UK Government is to sign up to the European Convention Against Trafficking today (23 March 2007), Amnesty International Scotland Programme Director John Watson said:

“Amnesty International applauds the UK Government’s signature of the European Convention Against Trafficking. Today is a great step on the road to eradicating trafficking in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Trafficking in people is a vicious and well organised crime which is causing untold human misery around the world and right here in Scotland.

“Signing the European Convention will help ensure that victims of this pernicious trade in people receive some protection when they escape their ordeal in Scotland.

“It should end the situation of victims being criminalised and facing possible immigration detention and deportation, instead of receiving the support they need. We are aware of cases in Scotland where suspected trafficking victims have been detained in Dungavel and this is unacceptable.”

Amnesty International recommends that when the UK Government and Scottish Executive implements the Convention, they do so quickly and includes the following victim support measures:

  • a 90 day ‘reflection period’ for victims;
  • residence permits which are not conditional on agreeing to help the police;
  • ensure no victim faces any criminal penalty because of what has happened to them;
  • take advice from organisations with a track record on working with victims of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and child protection.

The Scottish Executive would be responsible for providing accommodation and services to victims as well as ensuring non-prosecution of crimes which victims had been coerced into. The Executive is already funding two workers in Glasgow who work with trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, Amnesty would like to see this provision extended and rolled out throughout Scotland.

The experience of other European countries has shown that guaranteeing secure protection to those who have been trafficked, as well as being the right thing to do, gives the best chance of stopping the traffickers and bringing them to justice. There has only been one case brought against traffickers in Scotland which collapsed due to the main witnesses pulling out. It is believed that the insecure immigration status of trafficking victims was a factor in the collapse of this case.

Amnesty International hopes the UK Government will ratify and work with the Scottish Executive to implement the provisions of the European Convention Against Trafficking without delay.

John Watson concluded:

“It is very fitting that the Government is making these moves to eradicate people trafficking as Scotland commemorates the bicentenary if the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. Trafficking is truly a modern day slave trade, and we need an abolitionist movement today as we did two centuries ago.”

Background

Home Office research due to be published this year suggests that at any one time during 2003 there were in the region of 4,000 victims of trafficking for forced prostitution in the UK (1). Trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls, from countries including Moldova, Romania, Albania, Thailand and Nigeria have been forced to work as prostitutes in the UK. Victims of trafficking are tricked or violently coerced into leaving their homes.

Unicef believes that there are at least 5,000 child sex workers in the UK many of whom will have been trafficked. In Scotland, Save the Children's rights has published research into child trafficking here which revealed that Children's rights are increasingly arriving in Scotland with and without adults in unusual and concerning circumstances. They found that statutory bodies do not know the scale or extent of the problem because there is no national system for collection of actual or suspicious cases but that figures indicate that Glasgow is the major area for trafficking in Scotland.

There are no reliable statistics on trafficking for labour exploitation. However research by the Trades Union Congress and Anti-Slavery International has found evidence of trafficking for labour exploitation in the agricultural, catering, construction, food packaging and processing, hotel, textiles, cleaning and domestic work sectors. Amnesty International is aware several cases of young Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in domestic servitude who have also been subjected to sexual violence and/or sexual exploitation.

The European Convention Against Trafficking guarantees trafficked people:

  • a breathing period (‘reflection period’) of at least 30 days during which they can receive support to aid their recovery, including safe housing and emergency medical support;
  • temporary residence permits for trafficked people who may be in danger if they return to their country, and/or if it is necessary to assist criminal proceedings.

Find out more about Amnesty's work on trafficking

Notes:

1. From a written answer by Home Office minister Vernon Coaker to a Parliamentary Question from Mohammed Sarwar MP for Glasgow, December 2006

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