HC Deb 10 July 2001 vol 371 cc655-6
8. Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West)

What further action he intends to take to combat trafficking in human beings. [1545]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)

We continue to work with our partners in Europe and across the world against the evil trade of people trafficking.

This year for the first time, immigration service officials have been appointed to the staff of British embassies in Europe and 10 officials were sent to reinforce the state border service between Croatia and Bosnia—one of the key conduits for people trafficking. Furthermore, 21 members of the immigration service work as airport liaison officers overseas.

Mr. Thomas

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his promotion to the Front Bench.

Does my hon. Friend recognise the continuing concern that Eurostar is being targeted by the mafia-like organisations that traffic in human beings? Can he tell us how successful the measures taken to increase security at Eurostar terminals have been, what further measures are under consideration and whether he agrees that it is co-operation not confrontation with our European partners that will be the key to dealing with this terrible trade?

Mr. MacShane

I thank my hon. Friend for his congratulations. When I returned from Paris recently, I was extremely pleased to see British immigration officers at the Gare du Nord working to try to control that flow of traffic. That issue and the problems with Eurotunnel were raised by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in Paris yesterday. That again proves the necessity for joined-up government between Britain and France to deal with that real menace—in contrast to the isolation and rejection of such integration and co-operation demonstrated by the Opposition.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

We welcome the steps that have been taken to deal with human trafficking. Will the Minister also deal with slavery throughout the world, especially in Africa? Are the Government concerned about that? What steps have they taken to put pressure on international businesses to take a stand on the issue?

Mr. MacShane

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his important question. I know of the great concern that he has shown over the years about slavery, especially in some African countries. The Government have taken the lead in supporting the UN convention and in applying the protocol on human trafficking. We are stepping up co-operation with several countries throughout the world to try to put an end to that evil trade.

Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the claim that financial grants from international organisations, such as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, are going to organisations in Bosnia, such as the HDZ, which then use the money to smuggle not only tobacco and drugs but human beings?

Mr. MacShane

I am aware of those allegations and I shall address them when I visit Sarajevo later this week. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing them to the attention of the House. We have sent 10 British officials to work with the Bosnian state border police to try to damp down the problems of smuggling and people trafficking. Those problems touch many of us in our constituencies. That is why the first line of defence is overseas and why Britain must be engaged in Europe and throughout the world.