HC Deb 05 March 2003 vol 400 cc1075-6W
Andrew Mackinlay

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's initiatives to combat human trafficking. [99443]

Beverley Hughes

We set out a comprehensive approach to tackle trafficking and other forms of organised crime in the White Paper "Secure Borders, Safe Haven" published in 2002. The UK has been at the forefront of international efforts to address the heinous crime of trafficking. We were instrumental in drafting the United Nations Trafficking Protocol and the European Union Framework Decision, which commits the Government to criminalising people trafficking. An offence of trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years, was introduced in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, and the current Sexual Offences Bill introduces wide-ranging offences covering trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The introduction of legislation forms part of a comprehensive Government strategy for addressing trafficking of men, women and children as set out in the White Paper. This strategy recognises the need for a multi-faceted response and is a four pronged approach, which also covers enforcement, prevention and protection for victims and international co-operation to combat human trafficking.

We are working to tackle the criminal networks involved in people trafficking through Reflex, the multi-agency response to organised immigration crime. Its remit is to co-ordinate operations against organised immigration crime and to develop the intelligence and strategic planning to underpin them. In the last six months alone, Reflex has had 27 operations which have reached the arrest phase, 16 organised crime groups have been disrupted and over 60 operations are currently underway. This success has not been limited to UK soil—intelligence leads from Reflex have supported other overseas investigations, helping to dismantle significant organised criminal syndicates in other jurisdictions.

We also recognise the importance of providing protection for the victims of trafficking in order to encourage them to co-operate with the authorities. We are developing support arrangements for victims in co-operation with the voluntary sector and will be launching a pilot scheme for victims of trafficking shortly. In conjunction with this we are developing a best-practice 'toolkit' to raise awareness of trafficking and enable practitioners to treat victims appropriately.

We are working with our EU partners and with source and transit countries to build effective international action. We have established a network of liaison officers to build intelligence on routes and methods used by the traffickers.

The UK is also contributing to the EU STOP II Programme, which provides support to member state organisations responsible for action against the trade in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. The Department for International Development Office (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are funding prevention projects to educate potential victims of the dangers of trafficking, particularly for women and children, in source countries. DFID also supports a project by the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) aimed at combating the trafficking of children in certain sub-regions.