Brexit: What’s in Pandora’s Box for asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking?

Guest Blog by Markella Papadouli from the Aire Centre: Advice on Legal Rights in Europe – one of our wonderful Symposium Lecturers addressing our #Focusonchildren theme posed on day one of the symposium held at St Catharine’s College,  Cambridge   and some of the challenges to legal protection for minors in particular which are currently posed by Brexit.

Markella Papadouli
Markella Papadouli

In a Greek myth so very well known, it has become a cliché, Pandora, was a very beautiful woman that Zeus, the father of all Gods, sent to earth, as a gift to humans, with a locked box.

The contents of the box were unknown to Pandora. Zeus had given her clear instructions not to open it unless expressly told to.

But Pandora could not resist the temptation and opened the box, only to release numerous worries and sorrows, which fell upon mankind.

When the UK public voted for Brexit, they did so with a significant measure of uncertainty, and curiosity, amongst many other factors. Pandora’s box was opened, letting out a complex combination of worries and concerns.

From my perspective as an EU lawyer, some of the worries concern asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking.

First, asylum

Since the very inception of the A common European Asylum system (CEAS), the UK has been given the opportunity to “pick and choose” the level of its engagement with the laws and policies it wanted to embrace.

The UK opted into the first phase of the CEAS. It took a different view of the second phase, choosing to remain out, with the exception of the Dublin III Regulation, which the UK is a part of.

The Dublin Regulation, sometimes referred to as the “revolving door of Europe”, generally requires that asylum applications be processed in the first EU country where the asylum applicant enters.

There are several family reunion criteria in the Regulation but the way the Dublin system has worked in practice so far is to keep the sheer numbers of asylum seekers at the periphery of the EU, by enabling countries in the north to return asylum seekers to the country they first entered. For obvious reasons, this rule disproportionately affects Member States located at the external borders of the EU such as Italy and Greece.

The Dublin system is based on the assumption that EU Member States are applying the CEAS standards in a uniform way, an assumption that is of course false due to the fact that different countries such as the UK picking different levels of legislative engagement with the system, and other countries (such as Greece and Italy) offering, in reality, poor reception conditions and procedural standards.

This resembles a cacophony rather than a harmonious union.

If one fast forwards now to a future when the UK has already left the EU, this also means that the UK is no longer a part of the Dublin system

The UK and the EU could, in theory, sign a ‘Dublin-style’ agreement (as the EU does with countries such as with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland etc). But that seems unlikely, because the Dublin style agreements are premised on free movement rules and being part of the Schengen area, which the UK is likely to avoid.

Could the UK sign side deals with individual EU countries? For instance, could it send asylum-seekers to France or Greece on the basis of bilateral agreements?

This seems even less likely. Existing case law of the Court of Justice—C-114/12: European Commission v Council of the European Union, makes clear that the EU as a whole has exclusive competence over the allocation of asylum-seekers as between EU Member States and third countries.

Therefore with ‘Brexit’, the UK may find itself wholly outside of a system for regional management of asylum seekers.

The UK is already an attractive destination for asylum seekers.  It may become even more so.

Firstly, as a more attractive direct destination for asylum seekers who are wishing to avoid the EU entirely.

Secondly, for asylum seekers who have landed in countries such as Greece and Italy where reception conditions are poor. Asylum seekers may have more motive to travel onwards to the UK, and the UK will face obvious difficulty returning them to the county of first arrival.

More asylum seekers is exactly the opposite argument from the one that was raised during the Brexit referendum debates.

I have not seen the UK even beginning to consider the implications of this.

Furthermore, the Dublin system offers the possibility to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in one Member States to join their parents or other family members legally resident in the UK.

Would this principle be fully adopted in the UK following ‘Brexit’?

The UK would then need to put in place its own legal structures to ensure that fundamental human rights are respected and minimize the impact of this Pandora’s box worry.

Trafficking

A concern about children asylum seekers and immigrants leads to the second set of worries, around victims of human trafficking (VoT).

Currently, with the UK being an EU member, a VoT in principle, is able to rely on EU law directly before a UK Court.

In UK domestic law, the rights of victims of trafficking are at present relatively underdeveloped. Lawyers argue that there is very little in domestic law which provides for victims rights; since the vast majority of protection for victims so far has been achieved by using European law.

In a UK universe where EU does not exist, victims would have to depend on the Modern Slavery Act, which with few notable exceptions, provides for a “top-down” solution to trafficking.

This relies on state action and is ungenerous when it comes to victims’ individual rights.

A good example of how the loss of EU would impact trafficking victims can be given with employment law. Victims of trafficking until now were able to depend on EU law to recover compensation from their traffickers, because EU employment law is more flexible in respect of illegal work and women’s rights.

Leaving the EU may also mean losing the EU Anti Trafficking Directive. Parts of the Directive have been transposed into domestic law, but some other parts have not.

The EU Anti Trafficking Directive provides important safeguards for victims of trafficking such as the principles of non-punishment and non-prosecution of victims as well as the notion of early identification.

In my opinion one of the most striking divergences is the explicit reference by the EU Trafficking directive to unaccompanied minors. Indeed, the EU trafficking directive makes specific reference to unaccompanied children in preamble 23 (particular assistance, support, guardianship, durable solutions) and Article 16 (MS should take necessary measures to ensure specific, durable, actions to assist and support child VoT taking into account special circumstances of the child victim).

Unless mirroring provisions are incorporated into UK law soon, dealing with the host of issues above and further issues such as guardian appointment, unaccompanied children victims of human trafficking may suffer a great loss due to Brexit.

A loss both on paper, in terms of the legal protections, and on the ground, in terms of the more mature EU funded institutions and groups which tackle human trafficking: such as Europol, Eurojust and other pan European criminal justice tools such as the European Arrest Warrant.

Last but not least I want to make a reference to those victims of human trafficking whose immigration status may be affected after Brexit: European Union citizens whose right to reside in the UK is at best uncertain and potentially removed.

Victims of human trafficking are already vulnerable. A very interesting research done by Anti Slavery showed that people with irregular migration status in the UK are four times less likely to be identified as VoTs and end up missing out on protection and support. This enables trafficking to remain a hidden crime, its perpetrators to escape justice and victims to be pushed to re-victimisation.

Let us not forget that the risk goes both ways – UK citizens can find themselves trafficked into other European countries – as other EU countries may choose to reciprocate any UK measures that are less favorable to their nationals.

 These are just some of the worries when it comes to victims of human trafficking. The allegory of Pandora’s Box is that we do not fully understand what has been unleashed.

 Conclusion

The key notion that should inform all discussions on Brexit and these two particular categories of individuals is that they are vulnerable and this is undisputable.

Asylum seekers are vulnerable. The ECtHR beautifully summarized the vulnerability of asylum seekers in the case of MSS v Belgium and Greece by recognizing that Mr MSS “was particularly vulnerable because of everything he had been through during his migration and the traumatic experiences he was likely to have endured previously.”

Victims of human trafficking similarly have been severely traumatized. They have lost their freedom, they have been deceived and importantly, they have lost control over their own lives.

With hundreds of people reaching the European shores everyday, fleeing their war torn countries, where will the UK stand after Brexit? And where will we stand, while the UK decides?

Pandora’s myth may suggest an answer. Cliché as it may sound, in the myth, Zeus hid in the box something else. Hope.  And hope remained in the box, because life without hope would be unbearable in the face of all troubles unleashed.

In the face of the Brexit challenge we, as human rights advocates, must not lose hope.

And we must translate that hope into determination.

Determination to do our jobs, each one of us contributing their own way, to make sure that the standards adopted post Brexit are set high, and to counter the troubles unleashed.

Blog republished on CCARHT pages originally published on the Aire Centre’s website http://www.airecentre.org with kind permission of the author.

Top TiP from the US 2016 – Ask the right questions

“If there is a single theme to this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report,”  Untitled pictureannounced Secretary of State John F Kerry in the presentation of the fresh off the presses 2016 TIP report,  “it is the conviction that there is nothing inevitable about trafficking in human beings. That conviction is where the process of change really begins—with the realization that just because a certain abuse has taken place in the past, doesn’t mean that we have to tolerate that abuse in the future or that we can afford to avert our eyes.  Instead, we should be asking ourselves—what if that victim of trafficking was my daughter, son, sister, or brother?”

So the stage is set yet again, where the global scenario of human trafficking not parties to the UNODC ppis set within the context of connectedness. Across the TIP report one reads of the state of each nation’s efforts to address human trafficking and the grading which the US assigns to their efforts.  Tier 1 is thetop score you can attain as a country working against trafficking,  whilst Tier  3 is a place to escape from with some rapidity, if you want to be working with the US Government in Trade, or US Aid related schemes.  Tier 3 countries are designated as ‘ Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.’

And this year Secretary John F Kerry pulls into the front of the stage the ‘victim’ of trafficking, fairly and squarely centre stage for the imaginary of politicians, business executives, prosecutors, immigration personel and protection agencies world wide.  For the victim isn’t to be seen as ‘other’ as an opaque figure, lacking clarity in the wider obfuscation of the counting exercise which global policy makers are caught in, in order to make proportionate allocation of resources in the fight against trafficking networks.  Rather the ‘victim’ is being posed as someone, a sentient human being, one who could have relational, familial, household connectedness with the decision maker, or reader of the report.

This is an important reminder for those of us who struggle to discern the quantity and geographical distribution of those trafficked within the agglomoration of statistics, unsegmented data, migration records and algorithms designed to spit out  ‘hard numbers’ for policy makers and Gift a netpoliticians alike. To announce some form of ‘familial connectedness’ in the imaginary,  invites us to explore more deeply the fundamental issues  at stake within the globalisation of the economic activity of the world.  For the forces driving migration, the assymetries in wealth, access to land, access to protected human rights and dignity,  the essential levels of protection which the United Nations calls on the world’s 194 Nation States to respect, but which are corroded both within and without, are the very forces which put millions of people’s lives at risk of being exploited through forced labour and human trafficking, in their watercourse of erosion.

John F Kerry Secretary of State“Ending modern slavery isn’t just a fight we should attempt” announces John F Kerry in the preface to TIP 2016,  “it is a fight we can and must win.”
To win the fight, we need to understand the forces which are arraigned against people which put them at risk of trafficking abuse.  We also need to be asking wider questions around the business model of trafficking, which means that there is ‘demand’ for a market of those whose rights are being flagrantly violated by others, and unprotected by the states and communities through which they pass and where they end up exploited.

We need to ask the right questions,  dig deep into the prevailing context of global, regional and national inequalities, and explore the wider system in which Human Trafficking is set.  We need to ask  tough questions about location, ethnicity, gender, age-set, sexuality, the mode of labour and biological reproduction,  the distribution of state and cultural power, priveleged buyers and underprotected sellers, all leading to a the compromising of safety, security, and sustainable living for a significant proportion of the world’s population.

Ending slavery in the end is perfectly possible, but the time-line for its chinese worker in chinarealisation, when our ability to acknowledge the ‘other’ as brother, sister, son, daughter, mother, father, in the face of the migrant, the unaccompanied minor, the refugee, the street hawker, the urban slum dweller or the West African child pulled out of education at 13 because of household poverty,  is depressingly some way off.

For more on the TIP report, and its analysis of the state of various nations strategies to address Trafficking,  do follow @ccarht where we shall be delivering key details of the report, and be following the inputs to our CCARHT Summer School, where TIP 2016, the UNODC Global Report 2016 and the Global Slavery Index 2016 will comprise some of our first two days work.  With our faculty lecturers drawn from Universities in India, Africa, Asia, Europe and Canada, we shall be unpicking the methodological underpinnings of TIP, and exploring the implications of global data analysis in the struggle to mitigate Human Trafficking and ‘end modern slavery’.  See more here – some Early bird tickets still available.

ilm-logo-1cambridge summer school

TEAMWORK – Multi-agency co-operation what is working

Labour Trafficking and Multi Agency Cooperation  TEAMWORK!

A recent report from the Netherlands just out  – TEAMWORK – is a comprehensive tool kit,  designed to strengthen multidisciplinary cooperation against trafficking for labour exploitation in the EU.  The report was developed  in co-operation with a panel of experts gathered from Luxembourg, SlovakTeam Workia and Malta, (countries which will take on the EU presidency in the periods before and after the six month run currently in hand with the Netherlands).  The report was commissioned in preparation for the Netherlands presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2016, and there is comprehensive mustering of all the usual organisations which are implicated, trade unions, business associations, employment regulators, recruitment agencies and business, alongside prosecutors, judges, revenue and customs, immigration services, police, border agencies, and judges.

For those looking to consider the various implications of how an early British exit from Europe might impact on the UK’s ability to co-operate on European wide challenges for data and police resourcing of investigations and information sharing, the sections on the work of EMPACT (the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Crime Threats) which builds on the work of Europol, Eurojust, CEPOL, Frontex and Interpol from the 25 EU member states,  and Switzerland, will be of particular interest.  The stated role of EMPACT is  “to disrupt organised criminal groups involved in intra-EU human trafficking and human trafficking from the most prevalent external source countries for the purposes of labour exploitation and sexual exploitation; including those groups using Legal Business
Structures to facilitate or disguise their criminal activities”

training
Organisation wide or individual applications for CCARHT training courses running througout the summer of 2016 – do be in contact. Training@ccarht.org

The role of continued upskilling and training for all sectors incorporated in the report is particularly highlighted and fits well with the courses which CCARHT will be running out over the summer – in co-operation with a number of providers of professional service training. Do be in touch to discuss your personal or organisational requirements on this.

Do let us know your reflections on this report.  We are seeking to extend our understanding of what works and what has proved disappointing, what is in particular need of development in Multi Agency Co-operation and what are the continued gaps in understanding around the human rights abuse and internationally recognised crime of trafficking for labour exploitation – as we drive forward our own research into deepening early detection and enhanced victim care. Informed co-operation across multiple sectors is vital – but still appears to be seriously challenging – with different State’s working practices, legislation, bureaucratic procedures, employment cultures and political priorities impeding rapid development of co-ordinated and efficient interventions.  Our associates and readers thoughts after reading the report  are welcomed.

Report on working together to resist THB in Labour Trafficking
Report on working together to resist THB in Labour Trafficking

 

A year in focus – March 2015-2016

Supply in the Global economy
Supply in the Global economy

A Year in Focus – March 31st 2016 – Transparency, Supply Chains,  and the Modern Day Slavery Act 2015.

 

The year in focus in this instance is based on the anniversary of March 2015.  For in this particular month – on the 26th March 2015, the UK government initiated through legislation, a deviation from mainstream legal nomenclature currently being run out across the European Union to define the ‘crime’ and Human rights violation of Human Trafficking.  The European framework on Human Trafficking, was initially set out in 2002  to approximate the laws and regulations of European Union (EU) countries in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters relating to the fight against trafficking in human beings. It also aimed to set out common framework provisions at European level ‘in order to address issues such as criminalisation, penalties and other sanctions, aggravating circumstances, jurisdiction and extradition’. (2002/629/JHA)  Working with the same terminology, bringing together some co-ordination across policing, information sharing and policy formation around Human Trafficing was seen to be an important and responsible response to the crisis of Human Trafficking whose scale of traction in Europe was just starting to be recognised.

In 2005 the European Union sought to strengthen the commitment of the EU to preventing and combating trafficking in human beings with an additional report by the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament in May 2006 based on Article 10 of the Council Framework Decision of 19 July 2002.  In this communication the Commission sought to further reinforce the commitment of the EU and its countries to preventing and combating trafficking in human beings committed for purposes of sexual or labour exploitation, and in doing so to protect, support and rehabilitate victims. In this communication the EU Commission noted that trafficking in human beings could not be effectively tackled unless an integrated approach against Trafficking was adopted, based on

  1. respect for human rights
  2. taking into account the global nature of the problem.

Such an approach the Commission noted required a coordinated policy response particularly in the areas of freedom, security and justice, external relations, development cooperation, employment, gender equality and non-discrimination to be realised across the European Union.  In 2011 a further series of measures were announced to sharpen up the EU’s response on a number of measures around victim protection and early identification and intervention on Traffickers.  Furthermore in 2009 the EU had put into place an informal network to support country based Rapporteurs on Human Trafficking in order to bolster the understanding and networking of best practice developing across the EU.

The UKs journey to the Modern Slavery Act 2015

In October 2013 the then Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security James Brokenshire with Home Office backing from Teresa May and Lord Bates, introduced the Modern Day Slavery Bill.  Brokenshire heralded its presence in the chamber that it would “send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.”[1]  This was language first heard at the public launch of It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery in March 2013.  Professor Kevin Bales was the main platform speaker at the launch of this Centre of Social Justice report – a centre close to the heart of the Conservative Government having been founded in 2004 by former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith.  To a crowded room of NGOs, journalists, policy advisers, and conservative politicians, Bales called for Britain to find its former leadership on counter-slavery matters, and implied that it could find refreshed greatness as the first country to ‘eradicate slavery from its shores’ once more with the gripping of human trafficking as slavery.  The bait for greatness seems to have been too much for the politicians who recieved the briefings from this meeting to let slip.   And thus three years and much committee time, report commissioning, lobbying and internal civil service reorganisation and reframing of training for police, prosecutors and courts later, together with the launching of scores of new supply chain related businesses to which we now turn,  we now are.

Transparency of Supply Chains and the Modern Slavery Act 2015

March 31st 2016 sees the requirement for businesses with an annual turnover of over £36 million to report on what they are doing in their businesses to resist intrusion of human trafficking and forced labour in their supply chain.  This is in many ways an important inclusion in the spirit of the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight human Trafficking UN GIFT,  call to incorporate big business in the global requirement to clean up the ‘supply chain’.  Big brands are now recruiting counter trafficking CSR personnel and outsourcing to CSR auditting businesses  to assist them in delivering ‘slavery free’  order and procurement books.  A late but wlcome addition to the MDS act, when in October 2015    the transparency of ‘supply chains’ provision was appended to MDS.  Hailed by Home Secretary the Hon. Teresa May as ‘a truly ground breaking measure’ and an important addition to the ‘world leading Modern Slavery Act’ of 2015, the transparency in supply chains provision in the Act brings into view, businesses with an annual turnover of over 36 million, who will want to align themselves with  the Conservative Governments ‘hard and tough’ talk on counter trafficking.

A slavery and human trafficking statement for a financial year is—
(a) a statement of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place—
(i)in any of its supply chains, and
(ii)in any part of its own business, or
(b)a statement that the organisation has taken no such steps.

All of this activity throughout 2014 and 2015, has spawned a whole new micro industry in transparency and counter trafficking resilience tool kit development in the supply chain.  The Conservative administration espouses to ‘ raise the bar and send(ing) out a powerful signal to the world about the UK’s  determination to confront all forms of modern slavery’.  Although there is at present no real bite to the provision,  as the requirement is in truth advisory with no criminal consequences for failure to report, a late in the day and significant insertion of ‘Directorate level sign off’ for the supply chain audit, offers going forward, the chance that over time, with share holder and consumer groups taking note of what the audit reveals, that the measure might gain some teeth and transformational traction.

At present though, we are very much in the foothills of the assault on restoring accountability within the supply chain in the face of all the drivers of the globalised market economy to place vulnerable communities, at considerable risk, with children, women and men caught in the slip stream of providing the cheapest and most easily disposable supply of labour in certain sectors of harvesting, processing, manufacturing and construction businesses.  The challenge to render all links in the chain ‘slave, or forced labour free’ is going to be a long haul. One which will outlast every parliamentary based five year plan, for the foreseeable future,  and a goal which could be significantly undermined if some of the strong regional alliances built across Europe over the last two decades to identify and resist human trafficking and forced labour presence in the supply chain are unravelled.   Stakeholders who buy into this process, now at least have the sustainable development goals announced last year by the United Nations to assist them in the transformation of business goals placing the seventeen elements announced by the UN of sustainable development,  with human rights based flourishing and ecological sustainability playing new roles as critical cousins to the ‘free movement of capital’, labour and the golden mean of the market, the mercantile mantra of the ‘wealth of nations’ which has powered the industrial revolution and its technological successor over the last two centuries.

black incarceration

The deeper background of this initiative to transform the wording of Human Trafficking legislation into a fanlfared Modern Day Slavery Act, may help us assess the likelihood of success of the rebranding which has been taking place.  The role of American Academic and activist Kevin Bales has not been without significance. Bales – with a string of notable publications on the presence of slavery like practices informing his analysis of the global realisation of human trafficking – brought to Britain, language and legislative responses which many comment refer more appropriately to the cultural and racial specificity of the triangle of Caribbean and North American enslavement of African peoples across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  This legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, state sanctioned for three centuries has spawned a deadly legacy in ethnic separation and delegitimisation of an entire population within North America.  As Andrew Coyle, Allison Campbell and Rodney Neufeld’s book amongst others point out, the prison based industrial inclusion of a significant part of the black population, defines the principal political asymmetries of North American society which was embedded in state sponsored slavery, and the Black Codes of 1865, emerging from the years of the American Civil War itself defined around states position on legitimising black slavery within their economies.

In vesting British legislation in such North Atlantic colours, the United Kingdom government has begun a journey which could restructure responses to Human Trafficking in the UK and further afield.  There have been a number of voices expressing concern around separating the UK from the regional and international language of European directives and UN protocols developed over the last decade with an overarching framework built internatationally to accord with the edicts of the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Human Beings (2003)  and the subsequent Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings opened for signature in Warsaw in 2005 and eventually ratified in the UK on the 17th December 2008.  The next six months, with the up coming referendum on the UK’s place in the European Union, and the current policies emerging in Europe around the control of recent ‘surges’ in migration will have a significant role to play in how the UK moves forward with its new umbrella legislation, and how its wider regional partners react to its changes.

To  the outside observer, tougher language – announcing a UK hostile to ‘modern day slavery’ – should signal tougher responses to those who commit trafficking crimes.  But in truth very little appears to have altered.  True there are a couple of new provisions included which beef up the provision of advocacy for children caught within the processes of trafficking, and two new civil orders put in place which assist police challenges in moving forward enquiries internationally.  However this could have been undertaken within the existing framework of counter trafficking responses.  For many of its critics, the new act is seen as window dressing, and the role and contribution of the welcome presence of some independence in the appointment of an Anti Slavery Commissioner to monitor and hold accountable the policing response to enforce the new legislation, though welcomed, yet to be fully put to the test.  A great deal of money and energy has been spent reallocating legislation already in place to some new locations.  Parliamentary questions will eventually disclose at quite what cost, when other capabilities of the Criminal Justice System have been, some might comment by stealth, dismantled.  We shall be blogging on this aspect later in the year, as some of the first year results of the MDS in place are analysed with the 2015 – 2016  National Referral Mechanism  numbers assembled later in 2016.

So what in case you missed it did the Modern Day Slavery Act bring to the party which was not already in place.

The Modern Day Slavery Act 2015

  • The act brought in a number of changes principally the long overdue appointment of an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, (NGOs in the UK had been lobbying for the appointment of an independent Rapporteur on Trafficking, appointed in many European and international states for some years now)  in the person of a former senior police officer who had served with particular distinction during the 2012 London Olympics,  in the Vice and trafficking unit S014.
  • The consolidation of a range of counter trafficking, kidnap and slavery legislation which had been distributed across the legal shelves. This it is said will enable the easier absorption and implementation by police forces, prosecutors and the criminal justice system of counter trafficking measures
  • The introduction of two new civil orders to enable the courts to place restrictions on those convicted of modern slavery offences, or those involved in such offences but not yet convicted
  • The clarification of mechanisms for seizing traffickers’ assets and channelling some of that money towards victims for compensation payments – which had been informally operating over the last decade under the processes of the proceeds of crime act 2004 (POCA)
  • The creation of a new statutory defence for slavery or trafficking victims, compelled to commit criminal offences whilst under the control of their traffickers
  • The provision (in a piloted trialling)  of child trafficking advocates

What have been the impacts?

 

Of course it is still to early to call.  The impacts of all this churn, publicity and publishing attached to the Modern Slavery Act has raised a generation of  NGO neophytes some of whom believe that before 2015 the United Kingdom had not been undertaking any strategically informed responses to human trafficking –chronically inaccurate but that is the advantage and risk of rebranding.  It is quite extraordinary how such a young discipline as counter trafficking has already yielded to a chronic loss of short term memory, with all the work of Operations Pentameter (pp16-17)  one and two under the leadership of Chief Constable Dr Tim Brain, and the pioneering development of the first multi-agency and inter-departmentally co-operating Centre to address intelligence gathering and strategic advice for United Kingdom Police Forces, the UK Human Trafficking Centre initially based up in Sheffield under the leadership of Assistant Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell, largely forgotten.

What the motives of this rebranding were are not completely clear. However it will repay research efforts to explore the ways in which European politicians have sought over the last decade to move counter trafficking discourse away from explicitly policing and enforcement requirements, to announcing discourse around higher moral and political values being championed by politicians.  The inner politics of how power is wielded and distributed across the various arms of state, let alone how states choose to interact with one another across the wider vantage of the geo-political map is also in play in this recent piece of UK reallocation of the names we call gross exploitation by. It should also be noted that when focussing on the depravities of  ‘modern day slavery’ our political and socio-economic attention can be steered away from the role which States and Businesses play in rendering millions of global citizens stateless or at appalling risk where lives are lost in thousands through forced migration, forced labour and super exploitation become the only options available to sustain life,  gender based violence rises exponentially as summary eviction occurs due to man-made sustainability crises, war, threatened genocides, ecological devastation,  from places where people for many generations have formerly called home.

What will be areas to watch for 2016?

 

This last year has seen unprecedented numbers of refugees and economic migrants seeking to enter the jurisdiction of the European Union without ‘due process’.   Whether seeking to access the southern-most point of entry into Europe through Italy, via its first port of call Lampedusa, from North Africa, or cut across from Turkey to the necklace islands of Greece, many thousands of Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, North Africans, Afghans, Somalis and Eritreans have died in 2015. Their exact number will never be known – though continued deaths experienced on this southern route this year alone will undoubtedly be counted in thousands. The logistics of the refugee and smuggling facilitated genocide, lack the record keeping required to be able to properly estimate the level of the horrors which have been taking place in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.  The International Organisation for Migration have assessed the numbers arriving into Europe through the Adriatic and the Mediterranean as more than 1,011,700 migrants, with only 34,900 accessing European borders by land.  These numbers will be extremely tough for public opinion in the European Union to politically stomach, for a number of reasons which requires another thought piece to dismantle – and it has to be announced that set in a global context the numbers on the move north to the European Union are a paltry percentage of the millions of people on the move, seeking safety and economic survival world-wide.

With the civil war in Syria still raging, North Africa yet to emerge from the chaos which followed the displacement of its ‘tyrants’ and the ongoing presence, terror and appeal of Daesh and its associated networks wreaking havoc within the instability of these regions, the refugee crisis which emerged as the number one political crisis for Europe in 2015, will continue to generate anxieties around migration, border security and internal political stability across the Union.  There will undoubtedly be ricochets in the world of counter trafficking, and the potential of ‘modern day slavery’ being interjected into discourses to potentially disrupt clarity in thinking, around sustainability and human rights informed  immigration policies, asylum requirements , ongoing flexible labour force needs, competing international and national security concerns, social protection and privileging within nation states, and the role ethnic alignment and historical imperial privileging plays out for so many national identities across the globe.

This is a time when informed interventions around smuggling and human trafficking whilst rendering asylum fuelled migration safe across internationally recognised national borders will occupy significant time and thought from all our politicians and their advisers.  It is a time when those involved with applied research in this area have a particular responsibility to bring some clarity, assisting policy makers to be fully apprised of the human rights and sustainability framed issues which we are confronted with in a world where there is suffering and terror, as well as great opportunities to join up our thinking and actions with regionally based programmes which recognise the interconnectedness of our political, economic and cultural choices and our inter-regional dependencies.  In this the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Human Beings was clear – no nation can resist the challenges presented in Human Trafficking alone.  All are accountable to each other in the deep and complex processes of resistance, prevention, protection, recovery and socio-economic, cultural, behavioural as well as crimogenic changes required to turn the tide on this particular form of human misery and super exploitation.

 

 

[1] Wood, Helois (18 October 2013). “Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire announces plans to help end human trafficking”. Newshopper

Some Tips for the TIP report

Earlier this year, before Olympic fever spread across the globe, the United States Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report (‘TIP Report’). The Report, issued in June each year in accordance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sets out to provide a comprehensive account of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts around the world. It acts both as a primary reference and as a source of information on government efforts to combat the trade. The Report reviews the work of 184 countries and then ranks them according to three tiers based on the extent of trafficking in the country and progress on combating it. These rankings act as the United States Government’s primary diplomatic tool regarding anti-trafficking efforts by foreign governments, representing an opening of dialogues with different states aimed at advancing anti-trafficking actions and better allocating resources.

At first glance, it is apparent that many countries are doing better in combating trafficking. While Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic were recently ranked as very poorly attending to trafficking, new legislation and the implementing of comprehensive strategies to encourage the Four Ps – prevention, protection, punishment and partnerships – have moved both countries up a tier. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, which slipped down a tier last year, regained its Tier 1 status following developments in anti-trafficking laws and the securing of convictions under these new laws.

However, it is rather notable that the tier rankings of certain states have not improved over time, with some several countries falling down a tier again this year. Many of these countries are plagued with widespread violence and conflict. Such conditions have made the assessment of anti-trafficking efforts and developments more difficult. It remains, though, that while the Report aims to encourage better efforts regarding the Four Ps, certain states are not responding to the Report.

In large part, such a failure to respond may be the result of the United States being perceived as failing to allocate funds based on the recommendations of the tier system. While the Reports aim to improve anti-trafficking efforts through a carrot and stick approach of economic benefits for efforts to comply with standards and sanctions for continued failures to meet standards, the continued failure to apply sanctions on certain states whilst continuing to sanction others has led to a perceived bias. Such accusations of bias were articulated on 19 June 2012 by Russia, which expressed clear discontent at its continued placement in Tier 2, whilst other states, including the United States itself, continue to receive a Tier 1 ranking despite profound trafficking issues and large numbers of victims.

While clearly the Report does provide valuable information, such complaints highlight some valid issues around the nature of the evaluation system being used to rank countries. First, the criteria and requirements for tier placement are difficult to identify. They are mired in complexity, which, added to a lack transparency in the way in which data is collated and translated into ranking positions, leads the report to appear only partial. Second, the Report only assesses the actions of governments not the actions of other organisations operating within a country. Such a limitation means that organisations that may have significant impacts remain unaccounted for and not fully assessed. Third, the rankings adopt United States standards rather than internationally agreed standards, imparting culturally specific criteria that could result in unique factor operating in other countries being ignored. For instance, several Caribbean and South American states have pointed out that their child labour problem is being overstated, as it is common for young family members to help with harvests without being paid. They argue is a culturally normal, household-based, and non-exploitative form of labour in states where farming remains a family effort.
What all this evidences is a greater need for the United States to engage other countries and jurisdictions in formulating the Report for 2013. Developing co-operation around data collection and the matrices which inform the interpretative grid must occur both in before and after publication. The State Department must take heed of its own advice and focus on the fourth P, partnerships. By mobilising different resources and working with its critics, the Department will be able to build greater counter-trafficking resilience, understandings and interventions that push the fight against trafficking further along its path.