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Trafficking in Wales: Call for stronger pan-Wales response

  • New report: UK anti-trafficking measures ‘not fit for purpose’ and breach international law - new report
  • Sex trafficking in Wales requires all-Wales focus
  • New website provides focus for tackling trafficking in Wales

Campaigners in Wales will launch a new report on trafficking today (Wednesday) showing that the UK Government’s new anti-trafficking measures are “not fit for purpose” and the UK Government is breaching its obligations under the European Convention against Trafficking. They will also call on the Welsh Assembly Government to take stronger pan-Wales lead to tackle trafficking and ensure that victims are protected.

Wrong Kind of Victim

The report, the first major study of the government’s anti-trafficking measures since they launched 14 months ago, found that the government’s flagship “National Referral Mechanism” is “flawed” and possibly discriminatory, and operated by “minimally-trained” UK Border Agency staff who “put more emphasis on the immigration status of the presumed trafficked persons, rather than the alleged crime against them”.

The 167-page report, “Wrong kind of victim?”, by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, a coalition including Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International UK and ECPAT (3), reviewed 390 individual cases, as well as data from the UK Human Trafficking Centre and figures obtained from freedom of information requests. It found marked disparities in the successful identification of trafficking victims, leading to fears that officials are overly concerned with immigration issues rather than assisting the victims of traumatic crimes, including sexual exploitation, enslavement and forced labour.

Campaigners say there is clear evidence that criminals are even controlling their victims by warning that they will be seen as “illegal immigrants” not victims, and would be subject to detention and removed from the country or even imprisoned.

The researchers found that in Wales there was a significant problem with a lack of awareness and poor implementation of the identification process, and they call on the Welsh Assembly Government to deliver an All-Wales National Referral Mechanism to ensure better decision making at a local level in Wales.

Update on Sex Trafficking in Wales

Amnesty International also published a brief update on sex trafficking in Wales, indicating that trafficking continues to be a part of the sex trade in Wales, though it remains an under-reported crime within a secretive, illegitimate, though tolerated, industry.

Real progress has been made over the last three years: police forces have developed training methods and extended their engagement with the sex industry and other agencies in an attempt to tackle trafficking. There has also been an improvement in the provision of services for victims.

However, the pattern remains mixed across Wales, with real differences in the way police forces tackle the matter, and in the provision of local services.

New Website provides Wales Focus

The Cardiff Bay event also sees the launch of a new website, established by Joyce Watson AM, Chair of the Cross Party Group on Trafficking of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights in Wales. The website will serve as a repository of information on human trafficking in Wales and an opportunity to share best practice. The website is at

Cathy Owens, Programme Director for Wales, Amnesty International said:

“Its clear that the process set in train after the UK Government signed up to the anti-trafficking convention has not worked in practice in Wales, and few of those working on the frontline are adequately trained to deal with this horrendous crime.

“The identification system is clearly not fit for purpose, and we need the Assembly Government to take a strong lead in this area in order to bring together the police, the NHS, local government and the third sector to adequately safeguard people at risk in Wales.”

Joyce Watson AM said:

“There has been some real progress in Wales since we began banging the drum in order to protect victims of trafficking in Wales, but these reports indicate that we have not yet delivered a system which serves victims in Wales.

“I hope that the website I am launching today will help through sharing information and best practice, and I call on the Assembly Government to ensure that agencies work together to tackle this awful crime.”

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