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ECPAT UK campaign calls raised in Parliamentary debate on first IDMG report on Human Trafficking

ECPAT UK attended a debate in Parliament on 20th December during which our campaign calls to improve support for child victims of trafficking were highlighted.

MPs gathered in Westminster Hall to debate the first annual report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group (IDMG) on Human Trafficking. The debate was led by Peter Bone MP, the Joint-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Human Trafficking, with the Minister for Immigration, Mark Harper, representing the Government.

ECPAT UK welcomed the publication of the IDMG’s report on 18th October 2012, which provides a good overview of the Government’s activities to tackle human trafficking. However, as the IDMG is made up of Ministers and is therefore not independent of the Government, the report lacks an objective and robust assessment of the Government’s anti-trafficking measures and outcomes. As Frank Field MP stated in the debate, “The report offers a good overall view of activities undertaken by the Government, but it reveals little in terms of analysis of the problem or the impact of the work undertaken.”

The debate highlighted ECPAT UK’s call for an independent National Rapporteur, with Peter Bone MP stating, “...everybody from the Back Benches acknowledged the need for an independent rapporteur.” The Government’s position is that the IDMG fulfils the role of a national rapporteur, as required by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the EU Human Trafficking Directive. This is neither tenable nor appropriate given its direct responsibility to oversee and set the UK’s policy on trafficking. Instead, the IDMG should strive to become an effective cross-government coordination body and continue to publish an annual activity report. The report’s omissions, lack of analysis, erroneous interpretations and a lack of focus on child victims put in question the objectivity of the self-evaluation approach claimed by the IDMG.

Bharti Patel, ECPAT UK’s CEO said: “The weaknesses in the IDMG report on human trafficking only reinforce the need for an independent Anti-Trafficking Commissioner to be introduced in the UK to fulfil the function of a monitor, evaluator and policy advisor. This is an opportunity for the Government to underline its commitment to improve support for child victims of trafficking.”
 
ECPAT UK’s campaign call for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking was also raised in the debate by Michael Connarty MP, who said, “Finally, the other major recommendation that the Government have ignored is that [trafficked] children should have guardianship.” ECPAT UK is calling for every child victim of trafficking to have a guardian who would represent their best interests over the long term and help them to access all the services to which they are entitled in the UK. In response to Mr Connarty’s comment, the Minister, Mark Harper MP, stated the Government’s position that guardians for child victims of trafficking have not been introduced as there are existing mechanisms that fulfil the role of a guardian. This is clearly not the case as child victims of trafficking are not receiving the care that they deserve as children and as victims of crime.

ECPAT UK is very disappointed that the chapter addressing child trafficking in the IDMG report is brief and makes no reference to guardianship, the introduction of which is a key obligation under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the EU Human Trafficking Directive.

In his debate speech, Peter Bone MP also highlighted other care arrangements necessary for child victims of trafficking, including safe accommodation. “Support and care for child victims of trafficking is one of the most important issues that need addressing in the UK. Under current legislation, child victims of trafficking are treated much like any other at-risk children and are under the primary control of local authorities, which often means they are placed in care homes with non-trafficked children, where security and staff observation are limited. Unfortunately, that has led on many occasions to the horrifying situation of a child who escaped trafficking being trafficked once more.”, he said.

In light of the issue of child victims of trafficking going missing from local authority care, ECPAT UK is calling for safe accommodation for child victims of trafficking. ECPAT UK believes that safe accommodation encompasses more than the mere provision of adequate placements; it also includes, within that response, consideration of the child’s physical, psychological, legal, language and security needs. Importantly, it must include the child’s own perception of safety. These concepts are outlined in ECPAT UK’s 10 child-centred principles concerning the provision of safe accommodation for these vulnerable children.

Read the Westminster Hall debate at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121220/halltext/121220h0001.htm#12122053000001

Read the joint ECPAT UK / Anti-Slavery International briefing for MPs on the IDMG report

Read ECPAT UK’s report on guardianship, Watch over me

Read ECPAT UK’s guide to safe accommodation for child victims of trafficking, On the safe side

24th December 2012

ENDS

PRESS CONTACT:

Ms Bharti Patel, ECPAT UK CEO, 07402 113 985

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