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UK authorities turn ‘blind eye’ to ‘shocking underworld’ of human trafficking

Published time: March 10, 2013 12:30
AFP Photo / Bertrand Langlois

AFP Photo / Bertrand Langlois

The UK’s Centre for Social Justice has called on the government for a “radical overhaul” of measures to combat slavery, claiming the “ministers are clueless” about the current scale of slavery and human trafficking in the country.

Over 1,000 trafficking victims were detected in 2012, a staggering number of them British children, according to the CSJ’s latest report. An investigation, entitled ‘It Happens Here’, features a range of cases where both adults and children are trafficked into and within the UK to be subjected to various forms of forced labor, from sexual exploitation to forced criminality.

"Our research has uncovered a shocking underworld in which children and adults, many of them UK citizens, have been forced into lives of utter degradation,” the managing director of the CSJ, an independent think-tank established to tackle social issues in the UK, revealed.

Christian Guy noted that the latest figures are said to represent only the tip of the iceberg, due to a “shambolic identification system”.

"Yet the authorities are either failing to understand the nature of this abuse or turning a blind eye to its existence. Our once great nation of abolitionists is a shameful shadow of its former self,” he said.

Meanwhile, British girls trafficked for sexual exploitation in 2011 made up nearly one half of all UK slavery victims, according to the study. One incident reportedly involved a girl who was raped by 90 men in the course of one weekend.

“We have allowed human beings in the UK to be bought and sold as mere commodities for profit, gain or gratification. How on earth have we arrived at a place where there is no ambition or leadership to stamp out this appalling crime?” CEO of anti-human-trafficking charity Unseen, Andrew Wallis, who also worked on the report, said.

The researchers have urged politicians in the UK to develop effective measures aimed at protecting victims of human trafficking. They suggest that the responsibility for fighting slavery should be switched to the Ministry of Policing and Criminal Justice and away from the Ministry of Immigration. It’s hoped the move could help make it clear that human trafficking is first and foremost a criminal matter, not one of higher immigration control. Appointment of an anti-slavery commissioner, modeled on the existing children's commissioner, is among the proposed measures.

In the report the CSJ cited a case where a woman was arrested as an illegal immigrant after she managed to escape from a brothel where she was enslaved, and fled to a police station.

To encourage victims to report abuse and seek help from welfare agencies without facing the threat of criminal prosecution, the UK Border Agency should be stripped of its lead role in ruling on suspected cases of human trafficking and a new Modern Slavery Act introduced by parliament to bring all human trafficking and slavery offences together, the CSJ study proposed.

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