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Thomas Clarkson House
The Stable Yard
Broomgrove Road
SW9 9TL 

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Council of Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking

What is the Convention?
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking came into force on 1 February 2008.

The UK signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking on 23 March 2007. In a symbolic move, the then Home Secretary John Reid signed the document at the desk used by the the abolitionist William Wilberforce in his battle against slavery more than 200 years ago.

The UK ratified the Convention on 17 December 2008.  The Convention came into force in the United Kingdom on 1 April 2009, and the UK is bound by its provisions.

The Convention sets out measures to protect and promote the rights of victims of trafficking which States are obliged to implement, including standards in relation to: identifying victims, providing assistance, putting in place a recovery and reflection period, residence permits, compensation and legal redress, and ensuring any return to the home country is safe and dignified.

Read the full text of the Convention here.

UK Action Plan
In order to meet the obligations of the Convention, the UK developed its 'Action Plan' on trafficking. It published its most recent strategy on tackling human trafficking in July 2011. To read the strategy, click here.

The Home Office and Scottish Government published its most recent strategy in October 2009.

National Referral Mechanism
As part of its implementation of the Convention, the UK set up the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a procedure for identifying victims of trafficking and providing support. Find out more and see statistics from the NRM here.

Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group
ATMG logo
The Convention came into force in 2009 but has no accompanying formal monitoring mechanism. Therefore, in May 2009, nine UK-based organisations (ECPAT UK, Amnesty International UK, Anti-Slavery International UK, Helen Bamber Foundation, Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, Kalayaan, POPPY Project, TARA and UNICEF UK) formed the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) to monitor the implementation of the Convention and to share information about the UK's compliance with its obligations.

Wrong Kind of Victim coverIn June 2010, the ATMG group published 'Wrong Kind of Victim? - an analysis of UK measures to protect trafficked persons'. ECPAT UK contributed to this report with particular regard to the protection of child victims of trafficking. The report acknowledge some increased awareness of human trafficking and pockets of good practice. However, it argued that the UK was not meeting its obligations under the Convention. The reasons being that the Government had:

- misunderstood key provisions of the Convention
- not addressed the entirety of the Convention
- delegated considerable authority on identification to a flawed mechanism staffed by substantially unaccountable officials [NRM]
- overlooked the necessary safeguards for child victims of trafficking in the implementation of the Convention

The report also noted: "It is of great concern that no-one is required to represent the child's best interests, as required by the Convention, since in principle, children, like adults, are only likely to want their case referred [to the NRM] if it is in their best interests. One solution here would be to appoint a legal guardian at an early stage, before a child's case is referred to the NRM." This echoes our ongoing campaign call for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking in the UK.

All Change coverIn May 2012, the ATMG released a new report that examines trafficking prevention in the UK in accordance with the UK Government’s obligations under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

The report, All Change: Preventing Trafficking in the UK, is the result of research carried out between 2010 and 2011 with the aim of examining trafficking prevention in the UK. In particular, it assesses measures instigated by the UK Government to prevent trafficking/re-trafficking and how these measures are coordinated across departments and civil society.

It also highlights good practice in prevention programming and offers recommendations to strengthen the UK’s ability to prevent trafficking in the future.

ECPAT UK contributed to the entire report and provided the chapter on child trafficking in the UK. Read the All Change report in full here or read the Executive Summary.


Copyright © ECPAT UK 2015.

Charity number: 1104948. Company Ltd by Guarantee: 5061385.
4A Chillingworth Road, London N7 8QJ. 
Tel: 020 7607 2136. Fax: 020 7700 5435.


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ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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