HC Deb 19 January 2004 vol 416 c977W
Mrs. Lawrence

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cases of human trafficking were detected in 2002. [144611]

Beverley Hughes

Forming an accurate estimate of the levels of trafficking in people is problematic because of the secretive and hidden nature of the act. There are currently no accurate, reliable data in existence within the UK or the European Union. A Home Office research study "Stopping Traffic" (Police Research Series 125, published in 2000), indicated that there was intelligence to suggest that some women and children are trafficked into the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This was estimated at between 140 and 1,400 per year but it was not possible to say how accurate this estimate is. The report concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that this was on a large scale in the UK compared with other European countries.

However, due to the very serious nature of the crime, in 2000, the Government set up a multi-agency taskforce called Reflex to co-ordinate the operational response to tackling organised crime groups involved in human trafficking and the smuggling of people into the UK. Since April 2003, there have been 14 significant disruptions (26 in total) and from these 37 convictions for related offences.

The Government have also introduced specific criminal sanctions covering traffickers. We have acted quickly to deal with the worst forms of exploitation by creating an offence of trafficking for the purposes of controlling someone in prostitution within the Nationality, Immigration, and Asylum Act 2002. More comprehensive offences concerning trafficking into, out of and within the UK for all forms of sexual exploitation are included in the Sexual Offences Act which received Royal Assent in November 2003. A new offence covering trafficking for forced labour and removal of organs is included in the Asylum and Immigration Bill, currently before Parliament. All of these offences carry a maximum penalty of 14 years.