UNITED KINGDOM: Tier 1
The United Kingdom (UK) is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude. Most foreign trafficking victims come from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. The government reported a large increase in the number of identified potential victims from the UK and Eastern Europe in 2014. Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania, and Slovakia were the top countries of origin for potential victims identified during the year. 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. Officials identified two potential transgender sex trafficking victims in 2014. UK and foreign adults and children are forced into criminal behavior, including drug production and sale and theft. Children and men, mostly from Vietnam and China, are compelled to work in cannabis cultivation; many are held in debt bondage. Migrant workers in the UK are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, food processing, factories, domestic service, nail salons, food services, car washes, and on fishing boats. Children in the care system and unaccompanied migrant children are vulnerable to trafficking. Foreign domestic workers in diplomatic households are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. An NGO reported Vietnamese victims of forced criminal activity are transiting the UK en route to Ireland.
The Government of the United Kingdom fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In 2014, the government issued its first modern slavery strategy, reviewed and made recommendations to improve its victim identification mechanism, and launched a pilot program to strengthen protections for child trafficking victims. The government prosecuted and convicted an increased number of traffickers, appointed an anti-slavery commissioner to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts, and passed the Modern Slavery Act in March 2015. While authorities continued to identify a large number of potential trafficking victims, the victim identification and referral system failed to assist many victims of trafficking, particularly children. Government funding for specialized services remained limited. Some victims were detained and prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE UNITED KINGDOM:
Increase funding for and access to specialized services for trafficking victims, regardless of their immigration status; allow potential victims to access services from care providers before having to engage with law enforcement and consider extending the reflection and recovery period; increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers to strong sentences; provide a trafficking-specific long-term alternative to deportation or repatriation to foreign victims; improve multi-stakeholder oversight and specialized services for child victims; increase training to officials and front-line responders, including in UK overseas territories; increase training for public defenders, prosecutors, and judges to ensure trafficking victims are not prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; increase investigations in high-risk labor sectors, including by expanding the jurisdiction of and increasing funds for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority; address the vulnerability of foreign domestic workers under the current visa system and explore options to allow workers to change employers; and continue efforts to document anti-trafficking efforts through enhanced data collection.
The government maintained prosecution efforts. UK law prohibits all forms of trafficking. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, human trafficking offenses are governed by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Sexual Offenses Act 2003, and the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004, which prescribe penalties of a maximum of 10, 14, and 14 years’ imprisonment, respectively. The acts’ penalties for sex trafficking are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. The 2009 act explicitly criminalizes slavery without a precondition that the victim had been smuggled or moved into the country, whereas the other acts require movement as a precondition for trafficking. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was enacted in March 2015 integrating a variety of criminal offenses used to prosecute traffickers into one act and it prescribed penalties ranging from fines to life imprisonment for trafficking offenses, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. The act allows for confiscation of traffickers’ assets, establishes courts’ power to make reparation orders to victims, and both requires and establishes some victim protection measures. NGOs expressed concerns the act does not sufficiently address victim protection, especially for domestic workers. In Scotland, the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act 2010, and provisions of the UK’s Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 prohibit trafficking. In December 2014 Scottish authorities introduced an anti-trafficking bill to create a single offence of human trafficking. Northern Ireland enacted the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act in January 2015; the act unifies existing anti-trafficking statutes and provides support for victims of human trafficking on a statutory basis. Some traffickers were prosecuted for other offenses, such as inciting child prostitution.
The government did not report the total number of trafficking investigations or prosecutions initiated in 2014. The government reported that between 2013 and 2014, authorities prosecuted 226 individuals for human trafficking or slavery and convicted 155 traffickers, while 71 individuals were acquitted of trafficking or slavery. This represents an increase from the previous reporting period when the government prosecuted 139 individuals for human trafficking, convicting 99 and acquitting 40. Authorities did not report on the sentences or how many were for forced labor, sex trafficking, or forced criminal activity. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking. An independent inquiry detailed systematic child sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, in the city of Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 and identified wide scale negligence and willful ignorance on the part of police and social services. The London Metropolitan Police anti-trafficking and anti-kidnapping unit worked closely with an NGO to implement a victim-centered approach to sex trafficking investigations and trained other police forces. Scotland maintained an anti-trafficking police team. The governments of the UK, Scotland, and Northern Ireland provided varying levels of anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and justice officials. Scottish police maintained a mandatory online anti-trafficking training program for new recruits, as did Northern Ireland’s police service. UK authorities undertook robust law enforcement collaboration with foreign governments in anti-trafficking cases.
The government identified an increased number of potential victims but specialized victim services remained limited. Authorities identified 2,340 potential trafficking victims from 96 countries in 2014 compared with 1,746 potential victims in 2013. Of these, 61 percent were female and 39 percent were male, while 71 percent were adults and 29 percent were children. Authorities identified two transgender potential victims of sex trafficking. The top five countries of origin for potential adult trafficking victims were Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Slovakia; for child victims, it was Albania, Vietnam, the UK, Slovakia, and Nigeria. Of potential adult victims, 14 percent were referred for domestic servitude; 35 percent for other forms of labor trafficking; 40 percent for sex trafficking; and 11 percent for unknown exploitation. Of children, 11 percent were referred for domestic servitude; 31 percent for other forms of labor trafficking; 24 percent for sex trafficking; and 35 percent for unknown exploitation. NGOs and officials reported particular concerns of weak identification of child victims, citing low awareness by police and local authorities of child trafficking indicators.
The national referral mechanism (NRM) has two steps for identifying trafficking victims: a preliminary finding of “reasonable grounds” that an individual is likely a trafficking victim and a final decision of “conclusive grounds” that triggers victim protection. There is no formal appeal process for decisions. Only UK Visas and Immigration in the Home Office and the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) can make these decisions. Victims receiving a reasonable grounds decision enter a 45-day program of rest and recovery with access to services such as accommodation, health care, and counseling. Data on positive conclusive ground decisions was unavailable for 2014. Experts reported there was an inherent conflict among Home Office officials in deciding whether someone was an illegal immigrant or a trafficking victim. Officials and NGOs noted low awareness of the NRM in parts of the country, observing that many trafficking victims were not referred through the NRM, and some were treated as criminals. Some victims did 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. NGOs reported victims from non-EU countries had a lower chance of receiving a positive “conclusive grounds” decision, as reflected in 2013 NRM decisions data, particularly for citizens from China, Vietnam, and Nigeria. Authorities published a review of the NRM in 2014 and made recommendations to overhaul the system, including expanding the jurisdiction of government agencies to identify victims from solely the UK Visas and Immigration and the UKHTC; setting up a system of regional multi-disciplinary panels to make decisions; improving training and oversight for front-line responders; and removing the reasonable grounds decision to streamline decision-making.
The government maintained a contract with an NGO to coordinate the provision of care in England and Wales for victims during the 45-day recovery and reflection period. The contractor worked with a network of 11 service providers with access to 27 safe houses to provide accommodation, counseling, and other services. Authorities in Northern Ireland awarded a contract to an NGO to provide services, including access to accommodation, counseling, and health care, to victims during the 45-day recovery and reflection period. Scottish authorities provided funding to two NGOs assisting victims identified through the NRM; one provided accommodation for women subjected to sex trafficking and one provided accommodation for men and women exploited in forced labor. The government did not provide funding for services after the 45 days of care. Experts reported the length of time remained inadequate for service delivery and it was unclear what happened to victims after this time. Authorities acknowledged NRM support was not intended to provide rehabilitation, and noted many victims were still “profoundly vulnerable” after 45 days. NGOs reported cases of victims returning to prostitution or trafficking due to lack of long-term support. NGOs and some officials reported concerns with inadequate funds to address the whole range of victim needs, including legal aid. There were no specific support services for child victims—support was offered by local authorities, and NGOs raised concerns about lack of specialized care, including shelter and adequate mental health care. Government officials and NGOs reported child victims go missing from care and perhaps back to their traffickers; some front-line responders missed opportunities to assist victims due to doubts over the victim’s age. The government launched a pilot program in certain cities to appoint trained advocates to manage the care of child trafficking victims, and the Modern Slavery Act 2015 mandates child trafficking advocates. Scottish authorities funded a guardianship system operated by an NGO for unaccompanied children seeking asylum, including trafficking victims.
Regulations for the visa category governing “domestic worker[s] in a private household” require domestic workers to have worked for their employer for at least one year outside of the UK before applying for a work visa; to not be allowed to change employers while in the UK; and to stay for a maximum of six months, after which time they must return home. Experts expressed concerns the domestic workers’ dependency on one employer and inability to transfer employment even in the face of abuse rendered them vulnerable to domestic servitude. A parliamentary report found “tying domestic migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalizes their abuse.” One NGO noted that among workers who contacted them, the reports of nonpayment of wages, physical and psychological abuse, and restriction of movement (from migrant domestic workers) had almost doubled from the numbers reported under the previous system.
Regulations allowed trafficking victims in England and Wales to give testimony by video, behind a screen, or with the public removed from the court. The government offered renewable one-year residence permits to foreign victims cooperating with law enforcement or with personal circumstances warranting it, but did not report how many residency permits were issued in 2014. Long-term legal alternatives to removal to countries where victims might face hardship or retribution were only available through asylum procedures. NGOs reported victims who had received a positive grounds decision could not be assured of a successful asylum claim. The Supreme Court ruled foreign trafficking victims have a right to claim damages from their traffickers irrespective of their immigration status. The government did not report how many victims received compensation in 2014, and NGOs reported a lack of awareness of avenues for restitution. In one case, two convicted traffickers were ordered to pay the victim 100,000 pounds ($156,000) in compensation. NGOs and court findings indicated the government continued to prosecute and sentence child and adult trafficking victims for crimes committed as a result of their trafficking, despite prosecutorial guidance and court rulings to the contrary. Some victims were penalized despite officials’ acknowledgement they were trafficking victims. In 2014, a trafficking expert reported the government prosecuted a Vietnamese child for cannabis cultivation who had received a reasonable grounds decision, and a judge sentenced two Vietnamese men to a year in prison and deportation for cultivating cannabis, while acknowledging the men had been enslaved.
The government engaged in a wide range of anti-trafficking prevention efforts. Authorities released the first modern slavery strategy, which created a whole-of-government framework for anti-trafficking efforts and established responsibilities of different government entities to implement these efforts. The Home Office coordinated an inter-ministerial group on modern slavery and launched a new modern slavery hotline. The Department of Justice of Northern Ireland coordinated an engagement group on human trafficking with NGOs and government entities and published a second anti-trafficking action plan as well as a progress report on the previous plan. The Scottish police team maintained an anti-trafficking working group including government and civil society representatives. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) labor inspectorate was responsible for investigating exploitative labor conditions in agriculture, food processing, and the shellfish industry. NGOs noted funding and staffing for the GLA had decreased and it did not have jurisdiction to inspect other vulnerable sectors, such as construction, cleaning, hospitality, and the care sector. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires some commercial organizations to prepare annual statements outlining steps the organization has taken to ensure human trafficking is not taking place in their supply chain. Northern Ireland’s anti-trafficking law criminalized the purchase of sexual services. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. UK law allows authorities to prosecute citizens for sexual offences committed against children overseas, but the government did not report prosecuting or convicting any nationals engaged in child sex tourism abroad. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to UK troops prior to deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2014.
OVERSEAS TERRITORIES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
Bermuda is a limited destination country for women and men subjected to forced labor. Some foreign migrant workers from Asia and Latin America are vulnerable to domestic servitude and abuse or to forced labor in the construction and agricultural industries in Bermuda. Several cases of suspected forced labor were reported to and investigated by the Department of Immigration but were ultimately determined not to be trafficking cases. Police and NGOs did not receive any reports of potential trafficking cases. Some employers reportedly confiscate passports, withhold wages, deny benefits, and threaten migrant workers with having to repay the cost of airline tickets. The Transnational Organized Crime Act 2013 criminalizes all forms of both sex and labor trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Migrant workers in Bermuda operated under a strict system of government work permits obtained by employers on behalf of foreign workers. The government did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking offenses in 2014. Government resources were inadequate to conduct inspections to identify possible exploitation of foreign workers. No government officials were prosecuted or convicted for involvement in trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities in 2014.
TURKS AND CAICOS
Turks and Caicos Islands are a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. According to local experts, the large population of migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, with stateless children and adolescents especially at risk. Local stakeholders, including law enforcement officials, have reported specific knowledge of sex trafficking occurring in bars and brothels and noted trafficking-related complicity by some local government officials was a problem. Anti-trafficking legislation introduced in 2012 remained pending. The absence of specific legislation prohibiting trafficking as defined by the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; the absence of victim identification, screening, and protection procedures; and limited awareness of human trafficking on the part of officials and the public continued to hinder anti-trafficking efforts.