UNITED KINGDOM: Tier 1

The Government of the United Kingdom (UK) fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore the UK remained on Tier 1. These efforts included increasing funding for anti-trafficking efforts; identifying significantly more potential victims; training more first-responders in identifying potential victims; increasing trafficking investigations and prosecutions; and commissioning a parliamentary review and evaluation of the effectiveness of the Modern Slavery Act of 2015 (MSA) with input from NGOs. Although the government meets the minimum standards, protection services for child victims needed increased attention and resources. The government did not compile comprehensive data on sentences imposed on convicted traffickers. Some victims were cautious about entering the national referral system due to delays in review of their status leading to inconsistent availability of longer-term care.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Expand nationwide the Independent Child Trafficking Advocate program and train more social workers and care providers to better safeguard child victims. • Implement reforms to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), including timely determination of victim status, to encourage more victims to come forward. • Establish a database on investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and including prison sentence data across the UK, categorized by type of trafficking. • Provide sufficient resources for expeditious processing of trafficking investigations and prosecutions. • Consider implementing the period of victim support from 45 to 90 days across all UK jurisdictions. • Provide a trafficking-specific long-term alternative for foreign victims at risk if returned to their home country. • Ensure the statutory definition of trafficking under the MSA and similar provisions in Northern Ireland do not require movement of the victim as an element of the crime.

PROSECUTION

The government increased prosecution efforts. The MSA, applicable to England and Wales, and similar statutes in Scotland and Northern Ireland, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to life imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, the laws in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland required the element of movement of a victim in the definition of “trafficking.” However, these jurisdictions criminalized “slavery and servitude, and forced or compulsory labour” in other provisions of their law, which could be utilized to prosecute trafficking offenses that did not involve victim movement. Scotland, by contrast, did not require victim movement in the definition of trafficking.

As of November, the government reported 1,124 police trafficking investigations in England and Wales underway, involving over 2,200 potential victims. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which handled cases in England and Wales, prosecuted 294 defendants on trafficking charges with 191 convictions in 2018, an increase from 265 prosecutions and 180 convictions in 2017. For 2018, authorities in Northern Ireland reported five investigations and two convictions, the first convictions under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. In addition to prison sentences of four years and three years respectively, the court imposed Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders (STPOs) of 10 years and seven years respectively, restricting certain contacts and travel following release. For 2017, Scotland reported two convictions, although the Scottish government did not have data available for 2018.

CPS data did not differentiate between sex and labor trafficking, nor did the government provide data on the range of sentencing of convicted traffickers or percentage of convicted traffickers serving prison time. Notable sentences during the reporting year included a UK citizen sentenced to 18 years in prison for trafficking five Nigerian women in Germany, the first conviction under extraterritorial jurisdiction provisions in the MSA; a perpetrator of cyber-sex trafficking of minors sentenced to 32 years in prison; and a Romanian national sentenced to a 20-year prison term for sex trafficking.

The government provided a wide variety of anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and justice officials at multiple levels and required new police recruits and detectives to complete training modules on trafficking. The national-level College of Policing continued offering a course for all front-line officers, as well as a four-day course for investigators requiring specialist skills, including training on the 2015 guidelines for improving victim identification. The CPS had 14 Complex Case Units in jurisdictions across England and Wales that provided initial specialized advice in investigations and prosecutions wherever human trafficking offenses had been committed. During 2018, the CPS conducted mandatory training for all prosecutors on prosecuting trafficking. Police forces in England and Wales used Anti-Slavery Commissioner guidelines and manuals in their training.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) heads EURPOL’s EU Policy Cycle (EMPACT) Trafficking in Human Beings Group, and in 2018, coordinated law enforcement specialists from 22 countries to conduct operations focusing on labor exploitation and child trafficking, leading to 282 arrests across the EU. The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) conducted over 100 operations against labor exploitation and trafficking in 2017-2018, with more than 80 operations in non-agricultural sectors. The GLAA made over 100 arrests on labor charges, including for labor trafficking, which resulted in six convictions in 2018, with additional prosecutions pending. Northern Ireland and Scottish authorities collaborated with Romanian police to investigate organized crime groups responsible for sex trafficking of women across Europe.

PROTECTION

The government increased protection efforts. Through the NRM, authorities referred 6,993 potential trafficking victims for care nationwide in 2018, a 36 percent increase from 5,142 in 2017. Potential victims came from 130 nationalities. The number of identified victims who were UK citizens doubled in the past year (to 1,625 in 2018), in part due to increased awareness among the public and authorities about “County Lines” gang recruitment of children as couriers of drugs across the country. Potential victims who were exploited as minors increased by 48 percent to 3,137, compared to 2,118 in 2017. The Home Office attributed the increase to increased visibility of the NRM, intensified training among professionals and first responders to spot trafficking indicators, and increased public awareness of child trafficking. The MSA also included a “duty to notify” requiring government agencies to report potential victims encountered to authorities via the NRM, and also in cases where a potential adult victim declines consent to notification. Police who refer a potential victim must record a potential crime. All Border Force (BF) officers received training on trafficking indicators and identified more than 1,100 potential victims, compared to 500 in 2017. The BF also established protocols for airline crew to immediately notify BF through the trafficking hotline when they suspect a passenger is a victim of trafficking.

The NRM was the framework for identifying and providing care and support for victims. A first responder, such as police, BF, local authorities, and specified NGOs typically generated referrals. The Home Office instituted a single case management unit in the Home Office to handle all NRM referrals to increase administrative efficiency, improve comprehensive attention to victims, and consolidate the work of units in the NCA and UK Visas and Immigration. Upon receipt of a referral, that unit conducted a preliminary review for “reasonable grounds” of trafficking. If found, the next step was review for final determination of “conclusive grounds.” A “reasonable grounds” decision triggered provision of victim support and protection measures, whereby the victim started a minimum 45-day reflection period with access to services such as accommodation, health care, and counseling, and also decided whether to assist in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrator. At the end of the reflection period, a victim had 45 additional days of transitional support. The MSA required a final determination of victim status within 45 days in England and Wales, although in many cases the government extended this deadline. Scotland’s law provided a 90-day timeframe, and Northern Ireland remained at a single 45-day period. First responders assisted potential victims in reaching a “place of safety” immediately through an NGO. The Home Office maintained a detailed database online with disaggregated information, including source of referral, nationality, jurisdiction, handling the referral, type of trafficking, and disposition of review. While acknowledging improvements, NGOs continued to warn of victims being re-trafficked while waiting for final determination of victim status. NGOs cited over 2,000 potential victims had waited more than one year for their determination of status.

The government provided £20 million ($25.61 million) under a three-year NGO contract for 2015-2018 to coordinate the provision of care for adult victims in England and Wales under the NRM, and extended the contract through 2020. The Scottish government provided £1 million ($1.28 million) total to the two NGOs providing victim protection and support, an increase from £800,000 ($1.02 million) in 2017. While government funding of NGOs in Scotland tripled between 2014 and 2017, adequate funding remained a challenge in the face of rapidly growing numbers of identified victims. The National Crime Agency continued its “Vulnerable Persons Team,” which granted assistance to avoid re-victimization after completion of an investigation. Similarly, the Wales Anti-Slavery Leadership Group’s “Survivor Care Pathway” provided a long-term post-NRM individualized plan for survivors. The government encouraged efforts of private companies to assist in reintegration, particularly through employment of survivors. Under the “Bright Future” campaign, a national retail cooperative continued to hire and train survivors in partnership with an NGO, a model the government promoted for expansion.

Survivors who returned voluntarily to their country of origin were eligible upon departure for up to £2,000 ($2,560) support toward reintegration. Foreign victims who assisted with investigations were eligible for residency up to one year, and depending on personal circumstances, including where needed for assistance in investigations or court cases, increased to a total of 30 months. Although authorities otherwise typically deported foreign victims after leaving the period of support under the NRM. As a result, some foreign victims were reluctant to seek assistance or opted to petition for asylum instead of entry into the NRM, given the potential for longer residency in the UK.

Children received care through children’s services offices in local jurisdictions. The MSA also provided for the appointment of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTA) as an additional source of support and advocacy for trafficked children. The government provided £2 million ($2.56 million) to expand the ICTA service to one-third of all local authorities, as the next step to full rollout across England and Wales. Local authorities highlighted concerns over the high number of children who either left or were missing from care or foster homes and were especially vulnerable to trafficking by gangs. NGOs estimated up to two-thirds of all child victims go missing within 72 hours of placement for care and up to 20 percent remain missing. The MSA review committee recommended implementation of the ICTA system nationally, along with sufficient duration for providing services to child victims, in addition to requiring police to track cases of missing children until they are located, regardless of timeframe. Scotland and Northern Ireland also required appointment of independent legal guardians for child victims of trafficking and trained them on the support services available.

Victims had a statutory defense for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit and courts allowed victims during hearings to testify by video, behind a screen, or with the public removed from the courtroom. Courts could confiscate assets of traffickers and compensate victims through a reparation order, but only after conviction of the trafficker. NGOs noted victims found this remedy difficult to access given the small number of legal aid providers available to file such claims. Foreign overseas domestic workers (ODW) could legally change employers during the six-month period of their visa. Workers on the ODW visa identified as trafficking victims could apply for a two-year visa as a domestic worker, although NGOs contended workers who had suffered abuse would be unlikely to want to return to the same sector. Foreign nationals identified as trafficking victims could apply for discretionary leave to remain in the UK if supporting the investigation, seeking compensation through a civil claim against the perpetrator, or in some cases based on personal circumstances. Foreign victims could petition for asylum, based on risks faced if returned to their country of origin.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. The Prime Minister continued to chair a national coordinating task force first established in 2016. The Home Office published its 2018 annual report in October, with detailed data on anti-trafficking efforts across the UK, as well as outlining achievements and remaining challenges in fully implementing the MSA. Total direct government spending to fight human trafficking, on both the domestic and global fronts, increased significantly to £61 million ($78.1 million) for 2018/2019 from £39 million ($49.94 million) for 2017/2018. The government appointed a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner in February 2019. Due to the nine-month gap between commissioners, the office did not publish an annual report for 2018. At the time of his resignation, the prior (and first-ever) commissioner encouraged greater independence of the position to monitor and evaluate government efforts to fight trafficking, and called it vital for the position’s continued and future success.

The government-commissioned committee reviewing the effectiveness of the MSA issued interim reports recommending increasing the independence of the role of the anti-slavery commissioner, improving the corporate reporting on transparency in supply chains, and expanding protections for children under the ICTA system across all regions of the UK. The Church of England and the Catholic Church promoted a joint awareness program alerting parishioners to trafficking indicators in their daily life, initially focusing on reporting to police signs of human trafficking in car wash services. Through an app, congregants reported 930 such cases to police in 2018. In October, the Scottish government launched “Trafficked in Plain Sight,” with 1,700 Internet ads alerting the public to signs of sex and labor trafficking. In the last quarter of 2018, a national telephone and online helpline in England and Wales received 1,735 calls and 363 online reports, collectively indicating 1,326 potential victims. Scotland and Northern Ireland provided similar hotlines.

The Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre within the NCA researched and developed best practices in cybercrime, child protection, immigration crime, financial crime plus providing effective models for training and awareness building. The MSA required organizations with annual revenue exceeding £36 million ($46.09 million) to publish an annual statement detailing efforts to ensure its operations and supply chains are free of human trafficking. Many companies developed toolkits, ran training programs, and signed agreements with suppliers toward maximizing supply chain transparency. Critics noted inconsistent quality of the corporate statements and the lack of a penalty for non-compliance, an issue under consideration by the MSA evaluation committee. An August 2018 report by the Anti-Slavery Commission cited inadequate reporting on trafficking in supply chains in the agricultural sector, with only 50 percent of larger companies publishing a statement outlining their anti-trafficking compliance. The government established the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit, with 80 specialists working in the Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre (JSTAC), a multi-agency team of analysts providing detailed intelligence assessments about trafficking patterns and cases. The government, along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, launched a set of principles for governments to use as a framework for preventing and addressing forced labor in public and private sector supply chains.

The government funded a wide range of anti-trafficking programs globally, including continued implementation of programs under the £33.5 million ($42.89 million) Modern Slavery Fund first announced in 2016. Through the Child Trafficking Protection Fund, the government supported organizations protecting children both domestically and overseas, including programming in Vietnam, a significant source country for child victims in the UK. The government continued to lead efforts in both bilateral and multi-lateral contexts. In September, the prime minister hosted a three-day summit during the UN General Assembly for prosecutors, officials, and law enforcement officers from around the world, including significant victim source countries of Nigeria and Romania. The government also led a high-level event calling for greater collaboration between governments, the private sector, civil society and survivors to implement the prime minister’s Call to Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and, Human Trafficking, endorsed by nearly 90 countries. In April 2019, the government announced a £5.5 million ($7.04 million) grant to support British Commonwealth countries in their trafficking prevention efforts. The UK’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association works with Commonwealth countries to pass human trafficking legislation, using a tailored approach suited to each country’s needs and capacity. The government committed £20 million ($25.61 million) in cooperation with the United States, other governments, and private donors, to target programs in coordination under the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in the United Kingdom. The government reported 6,993 potential victims came through the national referral system, with the latest government estimates of up to 13,000 trafficking victims present in the UK. Potential victims comprise 130 nationalities; 45 percent were minors, 61 percent male, 39 percent female, and four victims were transgender. The largest source countries were the UK, Albania, and Vietnam, and 28 percent of potential victims asserted their exploitation occurred entirely outside of the UK. Of all victims in 2018, 57 percent were for labor trafficking, 28 percent for sex trafficking, and eight percent were not categorized. One-fourth to one-third of victims are children. Children in the care system and unaccompanied migrant children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Victims included 1,419 British children in 2018. Most identified victims were subjected to labor trafficking, forced to work in agriculture, cannabis cultivation, construction, food processing, factories, domestic service, nail salons, food services, the hospitality industry, car washes, and on fishing boats. Youth trafficked by gangs are forced to act as drug couriers from larger cities into rural areas across the UK. In Scotland, the largest numbers of victims are from Vietnam, many forced to work in nail bars. In Northern Ireland, there are cases of perpetrators forcing victims into begging, and the cultivation and distribution of illicit drugs.

U.S. Department of State

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