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 2013 government data, the top five countries of origin for adult trafficking victims are Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Poland, and Romania, inclusive of children, the top countries of origin are Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania, and the UK. UK men continue to be subjected to forced labor within the UK and in other countries in Europe. UK children are increasingly subjected to sex trafficking within the country. 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, food services, and on fishing boats. Domestic workers, primarily women, and including those in diplomatic households, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. Children and men, mostly from Vietnam and China, continue to be forced to work on cannabis farms.
The Government of the United Kingdom fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Investigations and prosecutions of all forms of trafficking increased and public awareness increased. While the UK government continued to identify a large number of trafficking victims, some stakeholders continued to report that the victim identification and referral system failed to assist many victims of trafficking; some victims were detained and prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. The UK government and Westminster Parliament launched an overhaul of the UK anti-trafficking program to ensure the effective prosecution of trafficking offenders and to create structures for self-critical evaluation; parliamentary enquiries further examined victim protection and transparency in supply chains.
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, regardless of their immigration status; 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 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 and safe accommodations for child victims and establish a system of guardianship for unaccompanied foreign children; effectively engage with multiple agencies to ensure child victims’ needs are assessed and met; ensure child age assessments are completed in safe and suitable settings and children are not awaiting care in detention facilities; allow trafficking victims the right to seek employment while cooperating in the prosecution of their traffickers; provide a trafficking-specific long-term alternative to deportation or repatriation to foreign victims; increase training to officials and front-line responders on victim identification and assistance, especially in cases of potential child victims; provide training and technical assistance to authorities in UK overseas territories to improve anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection results; prioritize anti-trafficking awareness and training among officials involved in anti-trafficking efforts; ensure immigration officials are trained in victim assessment to appropriately identify victims of trafficking; examine alleged differences in treatment and close any gaps in victim identification between EU and non-EU nationals; ensure potential trafficking victims are provided with information about their rights in a language they understand; engage with NGOs and establish an independent anti-trafficking coordinator to ensure assessments of 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 sustained prosecution efforts in 2013 and worked to improve the overall structure of their anti-trafficking law enforcement response. 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 for other serious crimes. The 2009 Coroners and Justice Act explicitly criminalizes slavery without a precondition that the victim had been smuggled or moved into the country. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, human trafficking offenses are governed by the 2003 Sexual Offenses Act, the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, and the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act. In Scotland, such offenses 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 mirrors the Coroner’s Act by criminalizing slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labor. In April 2013, Northern Ireland adopted the Criminal Justice Act to bring its law into compliance with EU Directive 2011/36, assigning a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. The UK Home Office continued to lead the anti-trafficking response in England and Wales, while the Northern Ireland Department of Justice (NIDOJ) sustained the lead in Northern Ireland and efforts in Scotland were led by Police Scotland’s dedicated anti-trafficking team. In December 2013, the UK government published a draft Modern Day Slavery Bill to integrate a variety of criminal offenses that are currently used to prosecute traffickers into one parliamentary bill, to make prosecution easier and increase sentencing for trafficking offenses; the draft bill was pending review at the close of the reporting period. In Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill was introduced on June 24, 2013. The bill places support for victims of human trafficking on a statutory basis and amalgamates existing legislation into one single act. At the close of the reporting period the bill remains in committee.
In 2013, UK authorities reported prosecuting at least 139 trafficking offenders, compared with 148 in 2012, and convicting 148 defendants, compared with 103 convictions in 2012. While the UK government did not provide comprehensive conviction and sentencing data, it did provide data for certain specific cases that demonstrate vigorous prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of a significant number of traffickers during the reporting period. For instance, in March 2013, the trafficker of two teenaged Nigerian girls was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. In May 2013, a man and his son were sentenced to eight and five years’ imprisonment, respectively, for holding homeless and drug or alcohol-addicted men in forced labor on a paving crew. In June 2013, seven gang members were given sentences totaling 95 years’ imprisonment for the sex trafficking of girls in Oxford. In July 2013, a man was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for buying a Romanian woman from those who had trafficked her into the UK and subsequently enslaving her in prostitution in Manchester; he was extradited from Spain, where he was serving a four-year prison sentence for human trafficking. In October 2013, a Pakistani man and his wife were sentenced to 13 and five years’ imprisonment, respectively, for holding a deaf Pakistani girl in their home for domestic service and benefits fraud; in February 2014 their sentences were increased by the Court of Appeals to 15 and six years’ incarceration, respectively, to reflect the severity of the offense. In January 2014, five Hungarians were convicted of sex trafficking following a joint investigation between police in the UK and Hungary. The Home Secretary publicly called prosecution rates “shockingly low,” but maintained that traffickers are being prosecuted for other equally serious offenses. The UK government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The UK government undertook robust law enforcement collaboration with foreign governments in anti-trafficking cases. In January 2014, a trafficking gang responsible for subjecting Nigerian women and children to sex trafficking was dismantled following a joint investigation between the UK and Spanish Police. Immigration enforcement staff based in Madrid liaised with the Spanish authorities to provide intelligence and rescued 48 potential victims. Seven traffickers were arrested in Madrid, and two men were convicted in the UK. In 2014, the multi-agency UK Human Trafficking Centre became part of the Organized Crime Command in the National Crime Agency (NCA), with responsibility for pursuing individuals and organized crime groups involved in trafficking. In September 2013, the NCA arranged to post officers in source countries, including Poland, Vietnam, China, Albania, and Nigeria, to intercept criminal gangs transporting child sex trafficking victims into the UK.
Scotland and Northern Ireland also engaged in a variety of anti-trafficking law enforcement activities, including new efforts to strengthen prosecutions and new law enforcement training initiatives. In April 2013, Scotland’s eight regional police forces were integrated into a single force and created the National Human Trafficking Unit (NHTU) to be the coordinating body for anti-trafficking activities. A meeting structure was established between Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and NHTU to enhance investigations, maximize opportunities for prosecutions, and ensure victims are not unnecessarily criminalized. The NHTU conducted awareness training throughout the force, which included a mandatory online training program and quick-reference card on victim indicators and victim support agencies. The NHTU conducted joint operations with Scotland’s border police to increase knowledge and awareness of trafficking and the issues that may be encountered at ports and airports across Scotland. In October 2013, the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland launched its policy on Prosecuting Cases of Human Trafficking to provide further guidance on prosecuting human trafficking offenses; and also participated in training on trafficking with the police service in Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) launched an online anti-trafficking training to its officers and launched an operational field guide in October 2013. The PSNI also participated in anti-trafficking training with the Republic of Ireland’s police service due to its shared land border with Northern Ireland.
The UK government increased protection efforts by identifying an increased number of trafficking victims and establishing new regulations aimed at protecting victims during trial. The UK government reported that it identified 1,746 potential trafficking victims—1,112 females and 624 males, compared with 1,186 in 2012. The UK government reported a total of 400 potential child victims, compared with 372 in 2012. The UK government had a national referral mechanism (NRM), which used a two-step process for identifying victims: first, a preliminary finding of “reasonable grounds” that an individual is a trafficking victim, and second, a final determination of “positive grounds” for that conclusion, which triggers longer-term victim protection. The decision as to who is considered a victim is shared between the Home Office and the UK Human Trafficking Centre. Victims receiving a positive grounds decision enter a 45-day program of rest and recovery with safe accommodation, with access to legal advice, health care, counseling, and educational opportunities. The UK government did not report how many victims received positive ground decisions in 2013. Experts reported that there was an inherent conflict among Home Office officials in deciding whether someone was an illegal immigrant or a trafficking victim. For example, media reported a case in which a victim of sex trafficking who fled to Northern Ireland won a High Court case appealed her denial of trafficking victim status after the UK Border Agency concluded she had not been the victim of trafficking and was liable for deportation. Experts continued to report that the 45-day period of rest and recovery remained inadequate for victim rehabilitation, and that victim care after 45 days was unclear. Anti-trafficking experts observed that implementation of the NRM remained problematic and that many trafficking victims were not referred through the NRM. In some cases, victims may not have been properly recognized; others do not see the benefits of referral or were fearful of the consequences of being brought to the attention of authorities due to immigration status or fear of law enforcement agencies. Regulations for the visa category governing “domestic worker[s] in a private household” require that domestic workers: must have worked for their employer for at least one year outside of the UK before applying for a work visa, are not allowed to change employers while in the UK, and can stay for a maximum of six months, after which time they must return home. Experts expressed concerns that the domestic workers’ dependency on one employer and inability to transfer employment even in the face of abuse rendered them vulnerable to domestic servitude. One NGO reported assisting fewer victims since these changes were implemented and that clients were afraid to go to the authorities for fear of being sent back to the same abusive employer.
The UK government continued an agreement with a central government contractor to coordinate the provision of care for victims in England and Wales in 2013. The NIDOJ continued to use a contractor for the procurement of care and support for victims, which numbered 41 referrals in 2013, or roughly 2 percent of the UK’s total. The NIDOJ had an agreement with a contractor for the delivery of support services for adult potential victims during the 45 day Recovery and Reflection period of the NRM. Scottish authorities provided funding to two NGOs; one provided accommodation for female adult victims subjected to sex trafficking; and one provided accommodation for male and female adult victims of forced labor. Both NGOs referred potential victims using the NRM. There were no child-specific support services for child victims—support was offered by local authorities under the Children Act 1989. NGOs reported that child victims go missing from care and perhaps back to their traffickers. The Children’s Society and the Refugee Council produced a UK government backed review in September 2013 on child victim care. The review concluded that child victims received insufficient protection and professionals missed opportunities to assist victims due to doubt regarding the victim’s age. This led to some child victims being placed in adult prisons or in adult hostels from which they could abscond, or face the risk of re-trafficking. A Westminster parliamentary review concluded that a new offense for child exploitation should be included in the Modern Slavery Bill to reach cases of children forced into domestic servitude, drug trafficking, committing a crime, and other forms of exploitation not covered by the Sexual Offenses Act of 2003.
In April 2013, the UK government introduced the “Trafficking People for Exploitation Regulations 2013” to protect victims testifying in England and Wales, including through permitting victims’ testimony to be given by video, behind a screen, or with the public removed from the court. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) notes that victims of exploitation are “automatically eligible” to take advantage of these measures, but does not track them specifically. Civil society reported continued problems with the penalization of trafficking victims, but the government made strides to improve victims’ protection from prosecution. In February 2013, the University of Cambridge released a study detailing how foreign women were often forced to commit offenses by their traffickers, given custodial sentences, and not given support for the crimes committed against them. In May 2013, after a special court upheld three appeals exonerating victims of trafficking who had originally been prosecuted for criminal activities, the CPS announced new guidance emphasizing the need to consider whether a defendant in the criminal justice system may be a victim of trafficking, and announced new awareness training programs for those working in the criminal justice system. CPS delivered a number of seminars with colleagues from the Bar on the issue of non-prosecution. After a number of previously unidentified trafficking victims appealed their conviction of criminal offenses, the CPS published guidance for prosecutors to inform criminal defense solicitors. In a landmark case, in June 2013, the High Court overturned the narcotics convictions of three child trafficking victims who had been subjected to forced labor in a cannabis factory. Similarly, an NGO reported a small number of female victims were detained in Scotland, but through NGO advocacy and with support from the police, all were released. In April 2013, Police Scotland amended guidance documents to underscore the principle of non-prosecution of trafficking victims; standardized statements were provided for inclusion in police reports where accused persons show indicators of trafficking. The UK 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 UK government did not report how many residency permits they issued to victims. Long-term legal alternatives to removal to countries where victims might face hardship or retribution were only available through asylum procedures.
The UK government continued to initiate, support, and implement a wide range of anti-trafficking prevention programs during the reporting period. In January 2013, the UK Human Trafficking Centre launched “Read the Signs,” a campaign to educate the public and appeal for information on cases of forced labor and domestic servitude. In 2013, the UK government introduced front-line awareness-raising activities for police and health professionals, and announced a training initiative to identify and assist child and adult victims. A national group reporting to the Prime Minister on behalf of England and Wales was established to address missed opportunities to protect children, including trafficking victims, and how to offer future support. The government developed education packets for teenagers on signs of trafficking, myths and realities, and ways to report cases.
PSNI and the Health and Social Care Board developed training for staff in emergency departments and engaged the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children Child Trafficking Advice Center to operate an advice line on child trafficking in Northern Ireland. In May 2013 the NIDOJ released its first annual trafficking action plan for Northern Ireland. In 2013, the NIDOJ provided support to “Read the Signs” and “Crime Stoppers Forced Labor” campaigns, released free educational resource packets to school, participated in community-based events such as the Belfast Film Festival, and worked with community think tanks in order to raise awareness of trafficking.
In Scotland, the NHTU distributed a version of its quick reference card to the public. The NHTU established a multisectoral group including law enforcement, victim support, charities, and public authority social work departments to tackle emerging issues, share information and promote best practices. Best practices from the multi-agency Human Trafficking and London 2012 Olympics Network Group have been factored into the planning process for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, including through the preparation by the police of an anti-trafficking toolkit for all officers and staff deployed to the Games. The UK Government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to UK troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2013. The UK government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce demand for sex or labor trafficking.
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. In a previous year, a Bermudan woman was subjected to sex trafficking in the United States. Victims from Latin America and Asia are subjected to domestic servitude in Bermuda. Foreign migrant workers are subjected to forced labor in the construction industry. Employers reportedly confiscate passports, withhold wages, deny benefits, and threaten migrant construction workers with having to repay the entire cost or the return portion of their airline tickets. In November 2013, the government enacted the Transnational Organized Crime Act 2013, which among other crimes, criminalizes all forms of both sex and labor trafficking. It prescribes penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Migrant workers were employed in Bermuda under a strict system of government work permits obtained by employers on behalf of foreign workers. There were two official complaints of migrant worker abuse in 2013, both alleging restriction of worker movement, overwork, and underpayment. In 2009, the Bermuda Industrial Union began offering union protection to some migrant workers, and in 2013, the Human Rights Commission and the unions held informational meetings to inform migrant workers of their rights and legal protections, including information on trafficking. The government did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking offenses in 2013. No government officials were prosecuted or convicted for involvement in trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities in 2013.
In previous years there were reports that some children in the British overseas territories of Anguilla and Montserrat were in commercial sexual exploitation.