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Human Trafficking in the UK: Examples and References Essay

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Updated: May 26th, 2022

Human trafficking is regarded as a modern illustration of slavery. This is a persistent problem for many countries. People from developing countries are often brought to developed countries and sold into slavery (be it sexual, labor or any other kind of slavery). Researchers and officials agree that the UK anti-trafficking legal response heavily relies on international practices and regulation, which can be seen as its strengths and weakness (Juss, 2016). On the one hand, there are quite efficient tools to combat human trafficking and provide assistance to the victims. For instance, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons 2000 is an effective ground. Nevertheless, the protocols and law enforcement created on its basis have proved to be inefficient. The bureaucracy and lack of flexibility pose quite significant threats to the success of the UK anti-trafficking strategies.

An illustration of this lack of flexibility and focus is the case of the Subatkis brothers. Young Lithuanian men paid £800 to get to the UK and land decent jobs (Lawrence, 2016). However, on their arrival, they found themselves in a food factory where they were forced to work with no payments. The brothers managed to escape and address the police. They were rescued and promised assistance during their state in the UK as they were important witnesses. They could use the benefits of the country’s National Referral Mechanism as the agency provides assistance (including financial support) to human trafficking victims. They received the aid during the period of 45 days, but after that, they were asked to leave their accommodations. In the end, they found themselves in the streets in a constant search for food and shelter. This situation was a result of the change in the program in 2014. Since then, EU citizens could not be passed to the mechanism mentioned above. An NGO managed to help the two brothers obtain a decent job with decent pay. Importantly, one of the key traffickers managed to escape and, potentially, proceed with his activities in the UK.

Clearly, the strategy has proved to be ineffective in a number of aspects. One of these is the support of the victim. It is obvious that the period of 45 days is insufficient especially when the victim is a witness in a criminal case. The Subatkis brothers faced the problems associated with such limited help. The young men could end up in one of the gangs and cause more issues to British society. It is possible to extend this period, but the focus should be made on practical aid, not pure financing. Rather than providing free accommodation and monetary aid, it is more important to provide the people with jobs. At the same time, the procedures of returning the human trafficking victims to their home countries should also be improved.

The policing strategy is also ineffective. The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), responsible for investigating trafficking in person, lacks coordinated collaboration with the respective policing agencies in the EU countries (Balch & Rankin, 2013). The UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) is the major agency that focuses on various aspects of the struggle against the issue. At that, the development of units even within the UK is too low-paced. For example, the unit in Scotland was established in 2013 only (“Scots police seek ‘human trafficking’ aid,” 2013). The establishment of such important units should be simultaneous and properly coordinated. The rate of unresolved cases and the number of victims of human trafficking in the UK also show that the agency needs some transformation. One of the basic issues can be related to the lack of communication. Therefore, it is crucial to assess the effectiveness of the agency and come up with strategies to improve its operations. Finally, the enactment of laws forbidding an individual (released from the prison after serving a sentence for human trafficking) from being a gangmaster is crucial (“Theresa May pledges modern-day slavery crackdown,” 2013). Such regulations will discourage people from engaging in unlawful activities.

One of the traffickers managed to escape, which also suggests that not all channels were revealed. At that, if the two agencies had particular programs concerning the investigation of human trafficking issues, the trafficker could be traced more easily. Pearce (2009) stresses that there are numerous international (usually across EU countries) programs that involve human trafficking prevention, prosecution, and detection. Nonetheless, those programs are often aimed at achieving particular (usually short-term) goals. This approach should be abandoned as the UK needs a comprehensive policing program involving various countries and multiple issues (instead of concentrating on particular cases).

On balance, it is possible to note that the UK legislation and law enforcement are effective to a certain extent but should be improved in many areas. The areas of concern include policing strategies, victims’ assistance, and prevention methods. The UK should have an agency that effectively collaborates with various partners including the police (in the UK and other countries), NGOs, and the corresponding agencies in other countries. The efficient collaboration and proper legal background will be instrumental in addressing issues related to human trafficking.

Reference List

Balch, A., & Rankin, G. (2013). Assessing the impact of EU strategies Post-Stockholm on UK policing of human trafficking. In M. O’Neill, K. Swinton, & A. Winter (Eds.), New challenges for the EU internal security strategy (pp. 160-188). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Juss, S.S. (2016). Human trafficking, asylum and the problem of protection. In S.S. Juss (Eds.), The Ashgate research companion to migration law, theory and policy (pp. 281-321). London, UK: Routledge.

Lawrence, F. (2016). The Guardian. Web.

Pearce, J.J. (2009). Young people and sexual exploitation: It’s not hidden, you just aren’t looking. London, UK: Routledge.

(2013). BBC. Web.

(2013). BBC. Web.

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