United Kingdom

2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 1

The United Kingdom (UK) is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude. Most foreign trafficking victims come from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. According to 2012 government data, the top five countries of origin for trafficking victims are Nigeria, Vietnam, Albania, Romania, and China. During the year, stakeholders reported an increase in forced labor victims from Eastern Europe as well as an increase in identified Latvian sex trafficking victims. UK men continue to be subjected to forced labor within the UK and in other countries in Europe. UK children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country; one NGO reported an increase in internal sex trafficking of children in 2012. Authorities reported that victims continued to be forced into criminal behavior. Unaccompanied migrant children in the UK continued to represent a group vulnerable to trafficking. Migrant workers in the UK are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, food processing, domestic service, nail salons, and food services. Domestic workers, including those in diplomatic households, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. Children and men, mostly from Vietnam and China, continue to be compelled to work on cannabis farms.

The Government of the United Kingdom fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the national government reported increased detection and prosecution of forced labor and sex trafficking offenders, and courts handed down significant penalties in some cases. In 2012, the government, in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders, continued to review and assess its overall approach to combat trafficking. The national government improved its identification of trafficking victims in the country and increased the number of trafficking victims who received access to care. It implemented prevention programs in relevant source countries and continued to implement its 2011 anti-trafficking strategy. However, challenges remain: victim protection experts and international observers urged the UK government to implement additional victim-centered policies, such as a system of guardianship for child trafficking victims, in order to improve its anti-trafficking results. Some stakeholders continued to report that the UK government’s victim identification and referral system fails to help many victims of trafficking. Country experts reported trafficking victims’ penalization as offenders or their inadvertent deportation during the year. Local officials and international experts continued to report inadequate protections for child trafficking victims. Expert reports concluded that there was a need for a tailored anti-trafficking law to facilitate more effective prosecution of this crime.

Recommendations for the United Kingdom: Ensure that law enforcement priorities to combat organized crime are effectively balanced with a victim-centered response to protect trafficking victims; ensure that a greater number of victims of trafficking are identified and provided access to necessary services, including potential victims who are incarcerated or charged with immigration violations; consider introducing a “pre-reasonable grounds” decision period in which potential victims can access services before having to engage with police and immigration officers; ensure potential trafficking victims are provided with information about their rights in a language they can understand; ensure that appropriate government officials interview all incoming domestic workers in private so they are familiar with their rights and protections in the UK; develop secure accommodations for child trafficking victims and establish a system of guardianship for unaccompanied foreign children; allow trafficking victims the right to seek employment while cooperating in the prosecution of their traffickers; provide training and technical assistance to authorities in UK overseas territories to improve anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection results; and ensure assessments of UK anti-trafficking efforts are transparent and allow for NGO feedback to facilitate self-critical, comprehensive recommendations in each region.


The Government of the United Kingdom increased its prosecution of sex and labor trafficking offenders in 2012. During the reporting period, it convicted trafficking offenders under Section 71 of the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act, marking its first successful conviction under this act. The UK prohibits all forms of trafficking through Section 71 of the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act (slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labor), the 2003 Sexual Offenses Act, and the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, which prescribe penalties of a maximum of 10, 14, and 14 years’ imprisonment, respectively. The acts’ prescribed penalties for sex trafficking are commensurate with those prescribed by other laws, for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2009 Coroners and Justice Act explicitly criminalizes slavery without a precondition of smuggling into the UK. Human trafficking offenses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are governed by the 2003 Sexual Offenses Act, the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, and the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act. Human trafficking offenses in Scotland are governed by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act of 2003, the equivalent of the UK’s Sexual Offenses Act. The provisions of the UK’s Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 extend to Scotland, and the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act of 2010 made it a statutory offence to hold anyone in slavery or servitude or require a person to perform forced or compulsory labor. The UK Home Office continued to lead the anti-trafficking response in England and Wales, while the Northern Ireland Department of Justice sustained the lead in Northern Ireland and the Scottish police’s dedicated anti-trafficking team took the lead in Scotland. During the reporting period, the UK introduced new legislation in England and Wales to comply with the EU Directive on Trafficking. The 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act would extend jurisdiction to include UK nationals committing trafficking offenses abroad by broadening the definition of labor trafficking.

During the reporting period, the government successfully convicted trafficking offenders under Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act, the first convictions under its 2009 anti-slavery law. The case involved four family members in Bedfordshire who recruited homeless men from soup kitchens and job centers, promising cash payments, food, and shelter but instead forcing them to work without payment through physical and verbal abuse. One defendant was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment, another received four years’ imprisonment, and the remaining defendants face a retrial in 2013.

In 2012, UK authorities reported prosecuting at least 148 sex and labor trafficking offenders with a conviction rate of 70 percent. Of that number, authorities initiated 69 prosecutions for sex trafficking and 29 for labor trafficking or other exploitative purposes in 2012. This compares with 106 prosecutions for sex trafficking offenders and 30 for labor or other exploitive purposes in 2011. During the year, the government reported it filed four prosecutions under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, compared with 11 in 2011. The majority of prosecutions and convictions for trafficking offenders continued to take place in England. The government reported that trafficking offenders were also charged and prosecuted under other trafficking-related laws during the year.

The government did not provide comprehensive prosecution, conviction, and sentencing data for trafficking offenders in 2012; however, it did provide data for certain specific cases that demonstrate the government’s vigorous prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of a significant number of trafficking offenders during the reporting period. On February 22, 2013, a court in Portsmouth convicted a trafficking offender and sentenced him to six years and three months’ imprisonment for subjecting four Polish men to labor trafficking. The offender kept all of the workers’ wages and kept them in small, crowded flats. On October 29, 2012, a convicted sex trafficking offender was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking of at least 25 Nigerian girls; the court found he used witchcraft rituals to ensure the victims’ obedience. On April 27, 2012, another court sentenced a couple—one person to 13 and a half years’ and the other to two and a half years’ imprisonment—for subjecting women from Latvia and Lithuania to forced prostitution in massage parlors. On May 8, 2012, courts convicted nine British trafficking offenders—sentencing them to a total of 77 years’ imprisonment—for sex trafficking of young girls, grooming for prostitution some as young as 13 years of age. In March 2013, another trafficking offender was convicted and sentenced to the maximum 14 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking of two Nigerian girls.

In its September 2012 report on the UK, the Council of Europe’s GRETA noted, “the co-existence of several partially overlapping offenses relating to human trafficking undermines legal clarity and can be problematic in practice when it comes to prosecution and conviction.” During the year, the government published a report on the results of its internal review of human trafficking legislation in the UK, in response to stakeholders’ call for a tailored, comprehensive human trafficking law to address the various disparate offenses on trafficking throughout the UK. The government concluded that new legislation was not necessary, but did acknowledge the UK’s “unduly lenient sentence regime” and the need for legislative changes that would allow the court of appeals to hear all cases in which a prosecutor wished to appeal a convicted trafficker’s overly lenient sentence.

On November 12, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights cited the UK government for violating Article 4 (Prohibition of Slavery and Forced Labor) in a domestic servitude case. The court cited concern over the UK’s lack of explicit legislation criminalizing the specific offense of domestic servitude. In its judgment, the Court found “the investigation into the applicant’s complaints of domestic servitude was ineffective due to the absence of specific legislation criminalizing such treatment.”


In 2012 the UK government identified and referred to care an increased number of trafficking victims via its National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The NRM involves two findings: first a preliminary finding of “reasonable grounds” that an individual is a trafficking victim, and then a final determination of “positive grounds” for that conclusion, which triggers longer-term victim protection. The government reported that it proactively identified 1,186 potential trafficking victims from July through December 2012. Approximately 224 of these referrals involved labor trafficking or domestic servitude victims. This figure represents a 25 percent increase compared with overall NRM referrals in 2011. The government reported a preliminary figure of 415 trafficking victims who received a “positive grounds” decision in 2012, with significant number of outstanding decisions involving non-EU victims. Anti-trafficking experts, while commending the government for establishing an identification and referral system for victims, observed that implementation of the NRM remains problematic and that, for a variety of reasons, many other victims were not referred through the NRM. In some cases, victims may not be properly recognized; others do not see the benefits of referral or are fearful of the consequences of being brought to the attention of authorities due to immigration status or fear of law enforcement agencies. During the reporting period, the Border Agency reported it updated guidelines for front-line responders to assist officials in the identification of trafficking victims, and it introduced an e-learning package as a training tool.

In another notable development, Scottish police announced a new policy in March 2013 mandating that future sex or labor trafficking victims be recognized first and foremost as victims and not penalized for crimes committed under coercion. However, problems persist. Anti-trafficking experts continued to report that border officials prioritized immigration control over the recognition of trafficking victims. The 2012 GRETA report for the UK called on the government not to punish potential victims of trafficking for immigration-related offenses while their identification procedure is ongoing. Furthermore, the GRETA report reinforced ongoing concerns that a number of potential victims continue to be detained in immigration detention centers, police cells, or prisons in the UK and were unable to access assistance. Some NGOs reported potential trafficking victims were interviewed by immigration authorities in detention facilities and may serve their recovery and reflection period in custody.

Despite the existence of guidance for prosecutors instructing them not to prosecute trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of their being trafficked, stakeholders continued to report and document the punishment of trafficking victims. In August 2012 the University of Cambridge published a report on the criminalization of migrant women in the UK, noting that only 25 percent of victims of trafficking in the study were referred through the NRM. The study further noted that even in cases where the NRM referral resulted in a “positive grounds” conclusion, the victims spent an average of four months in custody. The government amended the regulations for domestic workers in April 2012: the regulations for the “domestic worker in a private household” category now state that domestic workers must have worked for their employer for at least one year outside of the UK before applying for an UK work visa; they are not allowed to change employers while in the UK; and they can stay for a maximum of six months after which time they must return home. Permission to stay in the UK for longer than six months cannot be granted. An NGO noted serious concerns that this policy increased domestic workers’ dependency on one employer, and facilitated domestic servitude. The UK Border Agency reported it provided incoming domestic workers with a letter in multiple languages informing them of their rights and where to get help if needed. NGOs, however, noted that domestic workers subsequently identified as trafficking victims reported never receiving such a letter and that their employers often accompanied them to the visa interview.

The government continued to provide the equivalent of approximately $3.1 million to a central government contractor to coordinate provision of care for victims in England and Wales in 2012; this contractor reported it supported 378 victims between July 2011 and July 2012. The 2012 GRETA report on the UK praised the government for maintaining government funding levels for the support of trafficking victims despite difficult economic circumstances. Civil society organizations continued to express concerns that the UK’s support model was inadequate to meet the comprehensive needs of trafficking victims, citing a lack of uniform standards of care for victims, and that some shelters housed men and women in mixed accommodations, which was inappropriate for some trafficking victims. NGOs also reported that the NRM’s time-bound program only allows victims to receive support for 45 days, which they argue is insufficient time to allow for trafficking victims’ adequate recovery. During the year, Scottish authorities provided funding to two NGOs for comprehensive services to trafficking victims identified in Scotland. The Northern Ireland department of justice continued to provide funding to two NGOs to provide assistance to victims in 2012.

The government continued to work in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders to increase protection for child trafficking victims. The government reported a total of 372 potential child trafficking victims referred to the NRM in 2012. During the year, the joint agency team of police and border officials working on children’s safety issues, known as the Paladin team, continued to advise on child protection matters at London’s airports and investigated potential child trafficking cases in 2012. The Paladin team also trained airline staff during the year to recognize indicators of child trafficking.

The 2012 GRETA report reinforced ongoing international and local experts’ concerns about an inadequate level of protection for child trafficking victims in the UK, noting that rescued children placed in the care of local authorities continued to go missing. NGOs reported the NRM had no child-specific mechanism and a lack of specialized facilitates for trafficked children, and the piecemeal nature of care resulted in children lost, dropped out of the system, or returned to their traffickers. Stakeholders reported the NRM’s reliance on a centralized authority for victim identification resulted in marginalization of frontline responders’ opinions on whether a child or individual had been trafficked. Local stakeholders and international experts continued to urge for a system of guardianship for child trafficking victims to avoid re-trafficking and further exploitation. One NGO argued against the need for a child-specific NRM, and urged for more effective implementation of existing laws and policies.

The government encouraged victims to assist in trafficking investigations and prosecutions by offering renewable one-year residence permits to foreign victims who cooperate with law enforcement or have personal circumstances warranting it. The government reported it issued between January 1 and June 30, 2012, 128 one-year residency permits, humanitarian protection, or discretionary leave to individuals referred through the NRM who required immigration status to stay in the UK. The UK government continued to provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution through asylum procedures.


The government continued to initiate, support, and implement a wide range of anti-trafficking prevention programs in the UK during the reporting period. In January 2013, the government supported a new anti-trafficking campaign launched by an NGO to raise public awareness of signs of human trafficking and forced labor and to encourage citizens to report any potential cases they witnessed; the Police Service in Northern Ireland also supported the campaign and provided funding to help front-line police officers identify victims of trafficking. Furthermore, the Northern Ireland police created a database to serve as a knowledge-sharing forum on trafficking for its officers. During the year, the government partnered with the airline industry and launched an e-learning package to train airline staff on human trafficking and ways to report indicators of the crime. In September 2012 Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights launched an inquiry into the human rights of unaccompanied migrant children in the UK, who are vulnerable to trafficking. On December 20, 2012, a cross-party group of members of Parliament and Lords held the first human trafficking parliamentary debate to highlight their concerns about the government’s response to trafficking. Some anti-trafficking experts in the UK continued to criticize the government’s 2011 anti-trafficking strategy for its emphasis on border control. The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Center (UKHTC), under the direction of the Serious Organized Crime Agency, continued to serve as a multi-agency, centralized point for the development of expertise among governmental, inter-governmental, and nongovernmental stakeholders involved in anti-trafficking; however NGOs note the government has yet to appoint a single point of contact or national coordinator with whom to communicate. In August 2012 the UKHTC produced an assessment of trafficking in the UK. During the year, the government established a 15-member inter-departmental ministerial group on human trafficking to act in the role of national rapporteur; the group published its first report in October 2012. NGOs reported that the group’s decisions were not transparent and that a 15-member group was inappropriate for this role. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to UK troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2012.

In 2012, the government continued to investigate and implement trafficking prevention programs in partnership with NGOs in source countries. Following a reported increase in trafficking from the Czech Republic, UKHTC staff engaged with police, officials, and British embassy staff in 2012 to raise awareness and encourage a multi-faceted approach to prevent trafficking; authorities referred 18 potential trafficking victims from the Czech Republic in 2012.

Finally, in advance of the Olympic Games the government set up the London 2012 Network, comprising anti-trafficking NGOs, law enforcement, UKHTC, and the Mayor of London’s office to raise awareness of human trafficking and to prevent it before and during the Olympics. The government reported there was no increase in trafficking during the Olympics, and the organizers of the Rio Olympics are studying the model.

Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The large population of migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, and the estimated 2,000 stateless children and adolescents in TCI are especially at risk, according to local experts. Local stakeholders including law enforcement officials reported specific knowledge of sex trafficking occurring in bars and brothels and noted that trafficking-related complicity by some local government officials was a problem. During the reporting period, anti-trafficking legislation that included measures to improve identification of and assistance for trafficking victims remained in draft form. The absence of specific legislation prohibiting trafficking as defined by the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, the absence of trafficking victim identification and protection procedures and policies, and little public awareness of human trafficking continued to hinder TCI authorities’ ability to address trafficking.


Bermuda is a limited destination country for women subjected to domestic servitude. Stakeholders report that foreign migrant workers are vulnerable to conditions of forced labor. In a previous year, a Bermudan woman was subjected to sex trafficking in the United States. During the year, Bermudan authorities took some important positive steps to address domestic servitude involving victims from the Philippines and Ecuador. In one case, arbitration resulted in compensation for one victim who received back wages from her employers, though authorities did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders in 2012.

During the year, local stakeholders called on the government to introduce legislation to improve protections for, and prevent trafficking of, migrant workers in Bermuda, including domestic and hospitality workers. Stakeholders reported three cases of abuse of domestic workers from Latin America and Asia, including workers barred from leaving the home, forbidden from interacting with others, and receiving only a small portion of their promised wages. None of the cases resulted in an official complaint to Bermudan authorities. In previous years, there were some reported cases of employers confiscating passports and threatening migrant workers with having to repay the entire cost or the return portion of their airline tickets. Bermudan authorities and NGOs continued to report that victims rarely lodge formal complaints out of fear of retaliation. Migrant workers are employed in Bermuda under a strict system of government work permits obtained by employers on behalf of foreign workers. The Bermuda Industrial Union in 2009 began offering union protection to some migrant workers, and in 2012 several NGOs offered meetings for migrant workers to help explain their rights and legal protections.

There were reports that some children in the British overseas territories of Anguilla and Montserrat were in commercial sexual exploitation.