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UK ratifies EU Convention Against Human Trafficking

Smith: “Trafficking of human beings is one the vilest crimes to threaten our society” 17 December 2008 – The Government of UK has now ratified the Council of Europe Convention Against Human Trafficking. This means that the UK will formally become part of a Europe-wide agreement about setting minimum standards for protecting and supporting trafficking victims.

It also strengthens the UK’s ability to catch the criminals that exploit victims of trafficking and underlines the Government’s long-term commitment to tackling this horrific crime.

Key benefits of ratifying the convention include: a new National Referral Mechanism, providing a nationally agreed process to help frontline staff identify victims of trafficking and offer them support; strengthened arrangements for looking after victims, including a 45 day reflection and recovery period and the possibility of a one-year residence permit for victims; and better support for victims in giving information to police, which will help authorities bring those who exploit them to justice.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "I strongly believe the trafficking of human beings is one the vilest crimes to threaten our society. Those responsible for it are profiting from human misery and suffering. I am determined that the UK will play its part in putting a stop to this horrendous crime by joining forces with other European member states to support victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.” She said that ratifying Convention Against Human Trafficking helps the UK build on the existing measures in place in the country aimed at turning the tables on traffickers and providing victims with protection, support and a voice in the criminal justice system.

"The ratification is a major milestone in our long term strategy to combat trafficking, as outlined in the UK Trafficking Action Plan. This includes our plans to double funding for the UK Human Trafficking Centre next year to £1.7m," she said. The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) will undertake training of new police officers, and the UK Border Agency will begin a programme of awareness-raising for staff to prepare for the start of the new measures next year.

The ratification follows several police-led operations in which the new procedures were tested. Operation Pentameter 2 recovered 167 victims from 833 premises and made 522 arrests. Over £500,000 was seized and in excess of £3m assets held under restraint.

Recent operations Tolerance and Ruby, targeted at trafficking for labour exploitation, have helped to improve understanding of this previously less known form of trafficking and to strengthen skills for front line staff.

To date there have been 92 convictions for trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation under the Sexual Offences Act and four convictions for trafficking for labour exploitation.

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