MPs form new group against people trafficking

A new grouping of MPs has today been launched to fight the “abhorrent” trafficking of women and children across the world.

The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) will aim to gather evidence of trafficking in eastern Europe and the role played by transit countries in getting people to the UK.

Specifically, it will also put pressure on the government to sign the Council of Europe’s convention on action against trafficking in human beings, which has already been signed by 30 countries.

The launch comes after the government finished its consultation on a new UK action plan against human trafficking, in which the responses revealed widespread support for the UK to sign the Council of Europe convention.

This would allow victims a “period of reflection” in the country they find themselves in, and hold out the possibility of a permanent residence permit.

Ministers have said they are considering the issue, and their final response to the consultation will be published later this year in the form of a national action plan.

“Human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights. The trafficking of women and children into the UK is abhorrent. We must do more to halt this vile trade,” said former Labour cabinet minister Claire Short, who is vice chairman of the new APPG.

“The victims of trafficking most often come from areas blighted by conflict, poverty, economic and gender inequalities and the traffickers exploit these vulnerabilities.

“What is unforgivable, however, is that this abuse and exploitation continues in neighbourhoods all over the United Kingdom. This group plans to challenge this and press for more effective action.”

Today’s launch will include an address from Grahame Maxwell, the head of operation pentameter, the new police initiative against people trafficking made up of 55 forces across the country.

In the first three months of its operations, more than 80 victims of human trafficking were rescued, 232 people were arrested and 134 charged, according to the new APPG’s chairman, Anthony Steen.

Figures obtained by the Conservative MP also reveal that 12 minors between the age of 14 and 17 had been rescued as a result of the new operation.

“There is a lack of services specifically dealing with trafficked children in Britain. It is a new phenomenon. Victims are psychologically and physically scared for life. We need to approach it in a sensitive and compassionate way,” Mr Steen said.