Concern over UK ‘opt out’ of new EU law on trafficking

4 August 2010

Leading human rights organisations, Anti-Slavery International, Ecpat UK and Poppy Project, have expressed concern at the UK Government’s decision to ‘opt out’ of incorporating into British law a proposed EU directive designed to protect victims of trafficking and increase prosecutions of traffickers.

The EU Directive on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting Victims, expected to be approved in the autumn, is designed to bolster current international anti-trafficking law by broadening definitions of trafficking to include people forced into begging or illicit activities. The directive also ensures comparable standards across the EU for the prosecution of traffickers and the protection of victims within criminal proceedings.

If incorporated into British law the directive would create extra provisions to protect the victims of trafficking, including witness protection, as well help increase prosecutions of traffickers by extending the scope of extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Klara Skrivankova, Anti-Slavery International, said: “Despite significant positive steps, the Government cannot become complacent and say that the UK is already doing enough. Without international cooperation the Government will lose the battle with the traffickers. By choosing not to opt in to the directive the Government is failing in its efforts to combat this transnational crime.”

Christine Beddoe, Ecpat UK, said: “It is unacceptable to put party politics ahead of the safety of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The Government claims that it wants to make the UK a hostile environment for traffickers but this cannot be achieved unless the whole EU takes a common approach.”

Abigail Stepnitz, Poppy Project, said: “The only people who would benefit from this ‘opt out’ are the criminals currently making £3 billion a year in Europe from selling people into slavery.”

For further media information contact: Paul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International: +44 20 7501 8934