Vulnerable women are being sexually exploited on an industrial scale in “pop-up brothels” run by trafficking gangs, according to a report.
The brothels, often set up in residential properties using short-term leases, allow gangs to keep a step ahead of police and retain control over the women, the all-party parliamentary group on prostitution and the global sex trade said.
The APPG called for the UK to follow the lead of other European countries by criminalising people who pay for sex, but decriminalising the selling of sex, in an attempt to cut demand.
It also said the government should stop websites advertising and profiting from sex work.
Gavin Shuker, the Labour MP for Luton South and APPG chairman, said: “A revolving door of vulnerable women, predominantly from eastern Europe, are being supplied by trafficking gangs into residential properties and hotels in order to be sexually exploited by UK men.
“Commercial websites that advertise prostitution enable this trade, making sizeable profits and directly benefiting from the exploitation of others.
“But it is the minority of men in the UK who pay to sexually access women’s bodies who are funding sex trafficking and driving this form of modern-day slavery.
“Right now, the traffickers are winning. The UK is currently a low-risk destination for organised crime groups seeking to sexually exploit vulnerable women.”
The report, Behind Closed Doors: Organised Sexual Exploitation in England and Wales, found sexual exploitation of women by organised crime was “widespread”.
It said there were at least 212 active police operations in the UK into modern slavery cases featuring sexual exploitation, “overwhelmingly” involving foreign nationals working in brothels.
About 85% of the victims were foreign, with Romanians making up the biggest proportion.
Romanians were also the largest nationality group among suspects, with Britons the second-biggest.
The report also suggested a national register of landlords and new guidance for the short-term letting sector to help prevent sexual exploitation.
It noted: “A handful of explicit prostitution procurement websites enable this trade, making sizeable profits, directly benefiting from the exploitation of others.
“But rental landlords, online booking companies and hotel sites all indirectly profit from the practice, as exploiters take advantage of poor safeguards to hire new sites for pop-ups.”
Published on The Guardian on May 21, 2018
“I met teenagers in utter distress from what they had experienced already in their young lives,” said Mohammed Abdiker, Director of Operations and Emergencies at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), following a visit to Yemen this past week.
“They are just a commodity to smugglers,” he added, “something to make quick and easy money from and, if they die, the smugglers do not care as there are thousands of other people willing to pay for their services and risk their lives to simply build their parents a house, put their brother through school, or for any opportunity at all.”
The total number of migrants currently in Yemen is unknown, but nearly 100,000 arrived in 2017.
By Kieran Guilbert
Modern slavery survivors wishing to stay in Britain have secured the right to free government legal advice following a case hailed by campaigners on Tuesday as a boost for victim support.
A suspected trafficking victim who was taken to Britain as a child and sexually abused was refused legal aid over her immigration status by the government last year, as it changed its stance on providing help in such cases, lawyers said.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, launched a legal challenge, which led the government to revise its position, ending a year’s limbo for survivors who had been unable to receive legal aid to stay in Britain, activists said.
The government confirmed on Monday that victims have the right to free assistance, the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU) said.
“The outcome in this case provides much needed clarity - victims should now be able to access immigration advice when they most need it,” said Carita Thomas, a solicitor with ATLEU.
“Being a world leader ... means putting victims’ needs first,” Thomas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.
The government has always been clear that legal aid for immigration advice is available for individuals identified as a potential victim of trafficking, the Ministry of Justice said.
“The legal challenge brought by ATLEU has helped to clarify particular circumstances where such advice is available and the work that legal aid can cover,” a ministry spokesman said.
Britain’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act is considered a milestone in the global anti-slavery fight for introducing life sentences for traffickers, forcing firms to check their supply chains for forced labor, and protecting people at risk of being enslaved.
People who say they have been enslaved can access counseling, housing, and a weekly stipend of 38 pounds ($52)while the state decides whether to recognize them as victims.
Yet the 2015 law does not specify or guarantee a period or standard of care for those who claim to be victims, critics say.
Proposed legislation - put forward by parliament’s upper chamber - would allow survivors to remain in Britain for a year and receive a support package while deciding whether to apply to remain indefinitely, or return home.
“Access to free legal advice is fundamental to the recovery of any victim,” said Kate Roberts, head of office at the Human Trafficking Foundation.
“Insecure immigration status leaves already vulnerable people in limbo, without the security to disclose what has happened to them and to pursue justice.”
At least 13,000 people in Britain are thought to be victims of forced labor, sex exploitation and domestic servitude - but police say the true figure is likely in the tens of thousands.
Published on Reuters on May 2, 2018
By Beh Lih Yi
At Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi airport, a video repeats scenes of tourists visiting Thailand’s sunny beaches and its vibrant nightlife, but at the end comes a warning.
“Human trafficking and slavery are against the law in Thailand. Perpetrators will be severely punished,” it says, followed by a hotline number for people to report cases.
From airports to shopping malls, Thailand is ramping up a campaign targeting tourists in its latest effort to keep the country free from human trafficking, as officials eye better international ratings.
The Southeast Asian nation is consistently ranked as one of the world’s best tourists destinations. Government data showed Thailand welcomed a record 35 million visitors in 2017, and forecasted it to rise to 37.6 million this year.
But it has also come under the international spotlight in recent years over what rights groups describe as widespread human trafficking, including women forced into selling sex and fishermen trapped in conditions akin to modern slavery.
The U.S. State Department last year left Thailand on a Tier 2 Watchlist - just above the lowest ranking of Tier 3 - in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, saying it had not done enough to tackle human smuggling and trafficking.
Eyeing a better ranking, the government has vowed a clean-up. In recent months, it partnered with airlines and charities to warn visitors against involvement in trafficking, while urging them to spot and report potential cases.
“Every effort is important,” Weerachon Sukhontapatipak, a Thai government spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We are doing our best,” he said. “Therefore we hope the situation in Thailand will be better, and it will be recognized by the international community.”
A growing number of countries around the world are turning to the tourism sector to help combat human trafficking, including training frontline hotel and airline staff to spot the signs.
There has also been a rise of “advocacy tourism”, where holiday-makers sign up travel packages to learn about issues like modern slavery.
IN-FLIGHT VIDEOS, HOTEL TRAININGS
At Thai airports, banners greet visitors with warnings that human trafficking could “destroy” the country. A video flashes the message: “Keep Thailand the Land of Smiles for all”.
The government has also enlisted Thai Airways to show anti-trafficking in-flight videos on its international routes since February, said Nuttavika Tamthai, a spokeswoman for the national carrier.
In shopping malls, cinemas and train stations across the capital, Bangkok, videos show visitors how to look out for signs of human trafficking.
Some highlight sex exploitation, while another shows a child begging under a separate campaign called “Can You See Me?”.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Malina Enlund from the anti-trafficking group A21, which has partnered with Thai authorities on the campaign since mid-2017.
“The Thai government alone cannot solve the problem. We need the hotel groups, we need the tourists, we need everybody who can to join in,” Enlund said.
The Australia-based group is training hotel staff in Thailand’s seaside resort of Pattaya - a hotspot for sex tourism - on how to spot trafficking signs.
The Thai tourism body said in March that Thailand is aiming to move forward as a “quality destination” and it strongly opposed any form of sex tourism.
An estimated 425,500 people live in conditions of modern slavery in Thailand, according to the Global Slavery Index 2016 by charity Walk Free Foundation, including migrant workers from Cambodia and Laos and women exploited in the sex industry.
Published on Reuters on April 17, 2018
Trafficking for labour exploitation is on the rise across Europe. In several countries, it has overtaken sexual exploitation as the main form of human trafficking. Official figures underestimate the true scale of the problem and there have been few successful prosecutions and convictions.
These are among the main findings of the latest annual report from the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), published today.
Based on GRETA’s country-by-country monitoring work, the report says that labour exploitation has emerged as the predominant form of trafficking in several European countries including Belgium, Cyprus, Georgia, Portugal, Serbia and the United Kingdom.
However, all countries that have been evaluated twice by GRETA so far have indicated an upward trend in trafficking for labour exploitation in recent years.
The report states that most identified victims are men, although women and children are also affected.
Men are often exploited in industries including agriculture, construction and fisheries whereas women tend to be exploited in more isolated settings such as domestic or care work – where they are sometimes victims of both labour and sexual exploitation.
“Our monitoring shows that more and more people are being trafficked to work in awful conditions in Europe, both within and across national borders,” said GRETA President Siobhán Mullally.
“Victims are often reluctant to come forward as they may fear deportation or retaliation from criminal trafficking networks. Prosecutions and convictions of the perpetrators are also very rare.
“Some countries have already made important steps forward in this area, but many others need to improve their policies and practices. States across Europe need to work closely together with NGOs, trade unions and the private sector to help end this heinous exploitation and abuse.”
Published on the COE on April 3, 2018
By Lin Taylor
From children being forced by gangs to carry illegal drugs, to migrants smuggled into Britain and trapped in exploitative work, reports of slavery in Britain have surged as authorities crack down on the crime, according to data released on Monday.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it received 5,145 reports of suspected slavery victims in 2017 across Britain, an increase of more than a third from 3,804 in 2016.
Those involved were commonly British, Albanian and Vietnamese, said the NCA, which is dubbed Britain’s FBI, warning that criminal networks were heading online to sexually exploit people, especially through adult services websites.
“What this report reinforces is that we are now dealing with an evolving threat,” NCA director Will Kerr said in a statement.
“Particularly concerning to us is the rise in young people being exploited for sexual purposes or drug trafficking.”
The NCA said the jump in numbers was largely due to British children being reported to authorities as suspected victims of sexual exploitation or being used by gangs to carry illegal drugs in the so-called ‘county lines’ drug trade.
There were also increased crossovers between smuggling rings, that transport vulnerable migrants into Britain, and slavemasters, who force them into exploitative work, Kerr said.
Kerr said the figures “almost certainly” represent an underestimate of the true scale of slavery and trafficking in Britain.
At least 13,000 people across Britain are estimated by the government to be victims of modern slavery - trapped in forced labor, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude - but police say the true figure is likely to be in the tens of thousands.
Britain is regarded as a leader in global efforts to combat slavery, with its 2015 Modern Slavery Act introducing life sentences for traffickers, forcing companies to address the risk of forced labor, and better protect people at risk.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said on Monday it held 568 police operations in February alone but despite more arrests, authorities are struggling to jail slavemasters.
Trafficking prosecutions rose to 295 in 2015/2016 from 187 in 2014/15, but have since leveled off, according to data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Published on Reuters on March 26, 2018
European fashion giants H&M (HMb.ST) and C&A, as well as technology company 3M (MMM.N), are looking into a report in the Financial Times alleging that inmates of a Chinese prison made packaging used by the companies.
C&A’s chief sustainability officer Jeffrey Hogue said the privately-held company owned by Swiss-based Cofra Holding AG took the allegations very seriously and was investigating.
“We have a zero tolerance policy for any form of modern slavery including forced, bonded or prison labor. If we detect a case, we immediately terminate our relationship with the supplier,” Hogue said in an emailed statement.
Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator and former journalist, spent 23 months in jail in China for allegedly obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information on to clients including drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc, charges he has denied.
In an article for the Financial Times last week, Humphrey described his time in jail, including work the prisoners did: “Our men made packaging parts. I recognized well-known brands - 3M, C&A, H&M.”
The article also made mention of prisoners making textiles and components, but did not say for whom.
An H&M spokeswoman said the Swedish company was looking into the allegations, but could not yet say whether they were true.
Companies have been making more robust efforts to ensure their supply chains are clean of trafficking and forced labor, but there is still room for improvement, according to an annual index compiled by EcoVadis.
“It is completely unacceptable placing manufacturing into prisons and it seriously violates the regulatory framework that our suppliers must follow,” the H&M spokeswoman said.
“A failure to comply would immediately lead to permanent termination of our business contract.”
3M, which also has policies prohibiting the use of forced labor, also said it was investigating the report.
“3M does not engage or participate in exploitative working conditions, and we are not aware of any 3M suppliers in China using prison labor,” a spokesman said.
Published on Reuters on February 21, 2018
A $23 million (€18.6 million) venture fund to tackle forced labor in large corporations launched on Tuesday, backed by big-name brands including Apple, Disney, C&A and Walmart.
Humanity United, a foundation established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, partnered with several corporations to create the fund, called Working Capital.
The UK's Department for International Development contributed £2.5 million ($3.5 million, €2.9 million) to the fund as well in so-called "sidecar" grants.
Working Capital will be used to support tech startups that are testing ways to make supply chains more transparent for businesses and consumers.
The fund has already invested in a company called Provenance that uses blockchain tools to help track materials and products during each step of the production process.
Ulula, another company the fund has already invested in, uses data analytics in an attempt to communicate with workers and give them an anonymous way to report poor working conditions.
'Market demand' for fighting forced labor
Regulatory and consumer backlash over forced labor and child labor has increasingly put companies under pressure to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains.
"There is a growing market demand for more transparent and responsible corporate supply chains," Ed Marcum, managing director at Working Capital, said in a statement.
"We see an opportunity to invest in emerging solutions that will meet the demands of large multinational corporations while also benefiting millions of vulnerable workers," he added.
At least 25 million people worldwide were estimated to be trapped in forced labor in 2016, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the rights group Walk Free Foundation.
Published on DW on January 30, 2018
By Meggie Weiler
Although the United States abolished slavery with the ratification of the 13th Amendment over 150 years ago, there are still an estimated 24.9 million slaves living around the world today. To raise awareness of this crime and its prevalence in our modern world, January was named National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.
The United States continues to be both a source and destination country for human trafficking victims. According to the Polaris Project, as of June 2017, the national human trafficking hotline had received 13,897 calls that year, which is expected to double when final stats are reported in early 2018. These calls represent reports of potential trafficking cases or come directly from people seeking help.
While many people continue to think of human trafficking as a third-world problem, the numbers paint a very different picture, with 2,105 of the 7,621 human trafficking cases recorded in 2016 involving U.S. citizens.
Over the past 18 years, the United States has taken numerous actions to help combat human trafficking both domestically and internationally. In 2000, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) which built a better system of laws to combat trafficking. In 2015 Congress also passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, meant to expand the capacity of the U.S. government to help survivors of human trafficking. It has also banned goods made with forced labor from entering the U.S. market and worked to stop the use of forced labor by companies that hold government contracts effective at combating human trafficking.
In 2018, as we honor National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, we should keep this progress in mind while continuing to improve policies to combat modern slavery worldwide.
In the coming year Congress should:
Reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Last authorized in 2013, this landmark legislation expired in September 2017. A number of strong legislative vehicles reauthorizing TVPA moved through the House and Senate last year, but are still awaiting passage through both chambers. These bills reauthorize the most critical anti-trafficking laws and go a step further, including a critical provision adding human trafficking specialists to U.S. Attorney’s offices throughout the country who will help to gain justice for victims and hold perpetrators accountable.
Last year, according to the State Department, there were only 439 trafficking convictions in the United States. This is a partially a result of the complexity of human trafficking cases and a lack of the governmental collaboration needed to successfully tackle them. Many prosecutors lack the time or resources to take on these complicated cases. Adding a designated prosecutor would bring the capacity to increase collaboration between federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement and victim service providers to help identify and undertake these complex cases, leading to more prosecutions for trafficking crimes.
Robust enforcement of the ban on goods made with forced labor: By amending Section 307 of the Tariff Act in 2016, Congress removed a longstanding loophole that prevented the strong enforcement of a ban on the import of goods made with forced labor into the United States. To enforce this ban, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) needs to initiate robust investigations into the use of forced labor. As of now, it is estimated that the United States imports $142 billion worth of goods made with forced labor annually. Congress should continue to press CBP to act with urgency to identify and stop shipments made with forced labor.
Modern slavery touches each of our lives through the clothing we wear, the electronics we use, and the prevalence of the practice in communities across the country. This year, it is the responsibility of each of us not to turn a blind eye to this crime. The United States must continue to improve policies and laws to ensure that all of us are not complicit in supporting markets for slavery.
Published on Human Rights First on January 11, 2018
"Confronting root causes: forced labour in global supply chains": A New Report From Beyond Trafficking And Slavery