Tens of thousands demand UK backs ‘tougher’ law to fight trafficking

19 March 2011

More than 45,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Government to adopt a new law coming into force across Europe next week that will better protect trafficked people and increase prosecutions against traffickers.

Anti-Slavery International, ECPAT UK and campaigning organisation 38 Degrees will hand in the petition, which has been backed by the Independent on Sunday, to No.10 Downing Street at 11am on Saturday 19 March.

The petition calls for the British Government to sign up to the EU Directive on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting Victims. The Directive will come into force across other EU member nations on Monday 21 March.

If incorporated into British law the directive would create extra provisions to protect the victims of trafficking, including witness protection. The directive would also help increase prosecutions of traffickers by extending the scope of extraterritorial jurisdiction and allowing criminal proceeds to be confiscated to pay for victim compensation.

As part of the campaign a further 5,000 campaigners have written to their MPs to ask for the Government to sign up to the Directive. An estimated 5,000 people are believed to be trafficked into forced labour or sexual exploitation in the UK.

The EU Directive was passed by a large majority of Euro MPs including Conservative MEPs on 18 December. Despite this overwhelming support, the UK has not yet taken the opportunity to opt in and their support for the Directive has not been forthcoming. Along with the UK only Denmark chose not to opt into the directive. The other 25 EU member countries have two years to bring the new law into effect.

Gemma Wolfes, Campaigns Officer at Anti-Slavery International, said: “The trafficking of people into forced labour or sexual exploitation is one of the most harrowing forms of human rights abuse. Traffickers do not respect national borders, so is vital that the UK follows a common European approach needed to defeat the criminal networks profiting from this horrendous crime. We hope the strength of feeling from the public and the sheer number of people who have come forward to support the issue will persuade the Government to adopt the directive.”

David Babbs, Executive Director of 38 Degrees said, “45,000 of us have signed the petition to tell the government to help stop trafficking, because we know than when we work together we can convince politicians to change their minds. With thousands of lives ruined by trafficking gangs every year, 38 Degrees members signed the petition and emailed their MPs to challenge the government to do everything it can to tackle the problem.

“That includes backing European efforts to stop human trafficking. We know that trafficking is a cross border issue, which needs countries to work together. The EU directive would make life harder for the criminal gangs, and mean better protection for the victims.”

To see the latest number of signatories to the petition visit: www.38degrees.org.uk/stop-human-trafficking

For further media information contact: Paul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International: +44 20 7501 8934,  p.donohoe@antislavery.org

Notes for Editors

Anti-Slavery International is the world’s oldest human rights organisation and campaigns for the eradication of slavery, exposing current cases, supporting local organisations to release the minimum 12.3 million people in slavery, and the implementation of international laws against slavery. www.antislavery.org