Tories launch human trafficking plan

The Conservatives have launched their plans to tackle human trafficking – an offence they describe as “the modern slave trade”.

Between 700,000 and two million women and children are trafficked across international borders every year, the party said, with an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK in 2003 – but no convictions yet have been secured for trafficking for labour exploitation.

“Human trafficking is a hideous trade in human misery, which is spiralling out of control at the moment,” said shadow home secretary David Davis.

“We must stop ignoring it and start to tackle the criminal gangs who perpetrate it, and to protect the victims of it.”

The UK, along with Ireland, Spain and ten other Council of Europe states, has not signed up to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Currently just three countries of the 34 that have signed up have ratified the convention.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne said, despite not signing the convention, the government backed its aims.

“The UK fully supports the multiple aims of the convention and participated actively in the negotiations,” he said.

“The home secretary is at present giving the matter his fullest consideration and will be writing to colleagues in government in the near future. There are no time limits within which signature must take place.”

Mr Davis called for the UK to sign the convention, and added that a specialist UK border police force could help provide the expertise to intercept traffickers and victims at British borders.

He also called for separate interviews at airports for women and children travelling alone with an adult who is not a parent, guardian or husband as well as strengthening coordination between government departments and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soco).

Other measures Mr Davis felt would help included reinforcing the UK Human Trafficking Centre, ensuring police forces and local government associations had strategies in place for dealing with suspected victims of trafficking and setting up a helpline for women who have been trafficked, and for those who suspect exploitation.

The government said it supported measures to end human trafficking, but questioned the Conservative’s proposals.

Mr Byrne said: “The UK government is firmly committed to tackling trafficking in human beings, domestically and internationally.

“We published plans in November for a new joint venture between Soca and the Immigration Service to tackle organised immigration crime and have recently established a new UK Human Trafficking Centre to coordinate action in this area.”

But he added that without ID cards, which the Conservatives are opposed to, measures will not be effective.

“No one should be under any illusion – unless we introduce identity management and ID cards, we will not be able to effectively fight human trafficking or for that matter identity fraud, organised crime or illegal immigration,” he concluded.