Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that has in the recent past attracted a lot of social, political, regulatory, and scholarly attention perhaps because it contravenes human rights as victims are coerced to the detriment of their liberty and dignity. This manifests in the form of sexual exploitation and forced labour of men, women, and children. In this regard, the international community of states has been forced to take deliberate policy and regulatory measures to mobilise public opinion against, investigate, try, and punish perpetrators. United Kingdom is part of the global community that faces challenges of a similar nature albeit different in context from other states. It is in this context that this paper shall analyse UK’s role in discouraging the trafficking of children between the ages of 2-3 years from a socio-political and regulatory perspective using appropriate UK case studies.
Human trafficking is a global challenge given facing both developing and developed nations alike. The cross cutting nature of this challenge is due to the fact that developed nations are destination countries for modern slavery while developing nations act as source countries (Kaneti 2011, p. 252). In the middle of all this is a sophisticated transnational human trafficking networks involving procurers of human commodities, traffickers, sellers, and buyers. Consequently, this poses a challenge to state-centric approaches for tackling it (Kinney 2011, p. 10). Moreover, the fact that victims are held contrary to their human rights such as freedom of movement and freedom from captivity raises homogeneous concerns across the globe (Androff 2010, p. 2). Their economic exploitation for sexual purposes, forced labor, organ transplantation, illegal adoptions, and forced marriage complicates an already worse situation (Ramos 2008, p. 22; Kaneti 2011, p. 346). Therefore, this is a global problem with historical roots in the slavery trade of the 17th Century and contemporary implications.
Responses to this challenge have been varied in nature from the state to global interventions. At the state level, the United Kingdom has responded to it through the criminal justice system where perpetrators are arrested and punished for their crimes. Other responses involve gathering of data on victims who have been put through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). There have also been collaborative approaches that are victim cantered in terms of care, counselling, and residency in the destination countries (Munro 2006, p. 319). Unfortunately, the political response has been very narrow since members of the political class view human trafficking as an immigration issue (Chuang 2006, p. 146). Consequently, they have called for tougher immigration law enforcement to mitigate the vice within its borders. At the international level, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol) provides the legal basis for solving this problem. The UK has also responded within the framework of the EU Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings as well as the EU Convention on Human Rights (Balch and Geddes 2011 p. 28). All this responses, support the larger United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime that is targeted against the criminal networks running this illicit business (Shelley 2010, p. 9). All this responses can be classified as either criminal, social, or human rights mitigation measures against human trafficking.
Existing responses to the problem of human trafficking are too generalized in nature. For instance, the Palermo Protocol was enacted with a view to limit the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation as well as forced labor. On the other hand, the UN Convention on Transnational Organized crime is perpetrator centred because it is targeted against the trafficking networks supporting international human trafficking. Similarly, the United Kingdom national interventions are perpetrator focused such as the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the EU Conventions against trafficking. Generalized regulations have led to equally general studies on the interventions against human trafficking. However, they have obscured the specific attention that is necessary to understand United Kingdom and international interventions against the trafficking of toddlers.
The general objective of this study is to enquire the specific interventions that the United Kingdom has put in place to counter the trafficking of children under the age of 3 years old.
- a) To investigate the United Kingdom’s legal environment for regulating human trafficking of children between the ages of 2 and 3 years.
- b) To investigate the push and pull factors behind the trafficking of children between 2-3 years old.
- c) To establish the factors contributing to the trafficking of children between 2-3 years of age
- d) To investigate the social and political responses to the trafficking of children between 2-3 years old in the United Kingdom
In light of the aforementioned, the research question is;
What are the legal, social, and political responses in the United Kingdom against the trafficking of children between the ages of two and three years?
This study is vital to understand the adequacy of legal, social, and political measures against the trafficking of children between 2-3 years within and from the United Kingdom. It is also relevant because it shall facilitate an understanding of the legal environment with respect to the protection of child victims of human trafficking. Subsequently, this will facilitate the understanding of the existing regulatory gaps with regard to the protection of potential and actual child victims in this age category. Such an appreciation is vital because it may inform reform measures to adequately protect the said victims whether in an active or proactive sense.
Scope and Justification
The study shall rely on secondary data which has its own limitations. Foremost, the studies carried out may have their own biases depending on the scholarly leanings of the author. Similarly, available data may not necessarily reflect these particular age category in question. Therefore, it shall rely on the assumption that the legal and social protection of children from human trafficking in the United Kingdom is uniform. In this regard, it would be difficult to obtain specific data from official sources that aggregate data for children under this study.
For purposes of this analysis, this dissertation shall be divided into four chapters.
- Chapter one shall be an introduction of the study. It specifically gives the background of the study, the research problem as well as existing scholarly gaps. Moreover, it outlines the research question, existing limitations, as well as the organization of this dissertation.
- The second chapter will be a literature review. It shall explore studies that look at human trafficking as a global phenomenon (or problem) given its globalised causes and extent, as well as perpetrators and victims. Furthermore, it focuses on the probable factors leading to the proliferation and expansion of child trafficking networks within UK territorial borders. Last, it also focuses on the social and legal implications of the international crime on especially with regard to the rights of the child.
- Chapter three analyses how the UK has proactively and reactively responded to the problem though social and political, interventions. Under the aforementioned chapter, it also explores legislative measures that Westminster Parliament has put in place to deal with the contemporary and emerging challenges of child trafficking. Furthermore, it discusses transnational commitments that Her Majesty’s government has entered into in a bid to discourage it. Next, this chapter shall analyse the social responses through executive action and partnerships with local and international non-governmental organisations (NGO’s). There shall also be a dissection of the political debate that informs legal response, social action and related fiscal support.
- Chapter Four-This shall be a conclusion on the findings of the study as well as recommendations for future research as well as policy reform with regard to the trafficking of children between 2 to three years.
Toddlers-For purposes of this study, toddlers shall be used to refer to children between the age of 2 to 3 years.
To effectively consider the definition of human and child trafficking from a United Kingdom context, it is imperative to begin with the wider global considerations in which it finds its local orientation. This is captured in the definitions of the same by the United Nations as well as its related agencies (Chase and Statham 2005, p. 3). Notably, child trafficking is a sub-set of human trafficking and that is why the said definitions shall be separately explored henceforth. Consideration shall also be given to the fact that they are inherently similar in nature, albeit a difference in the victims targeted for trafficking and the reasons behind the same (Adelson, 2008, p. 98). The aforementioned analysis concludes in placing the United Kingdom definition in the global sense.
The United Nations definition of human trafficking is considered in the wider contextual nature in terms of victims and driving forces behind it. In this regard, the UN Human Rights Commission (2014) defines it as “… the process through which individuals are placed or maintained in an exploitative situation for economic gain” (p. 1). Note that this premier supranational body recognises the fact that victims are spread across all humanity irrespective of gender, age, race, and social class among others (Department of State, 2017, p. 30). In addition, this definition suggests that for an act to amount to trafficking of persons, there must be a limitation of liberty and subsequent exploitation in return for the perpetrators’ economic reward (Aronowitz, 2001, p. 166). Importantly, the definition also connotes that trafficking is a process other than an event due to meticulous planning and logistics involved (Feingold, 2010, p. 19). Moreover, it involves a network of persons who transfer persons from one place to another or between perpetrators and their beneficiaries as well as benefactors (Bales, 2007, p. 2). From these elements, factors that make up the definition of human trafficking according to the UN are victims, coercion, and purpose exploitation for returns.
Apart from the official UN definition, it is also imperative to look at how different international instruments define human trafficking. Foremost, is the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children. Specifically, it refers to trafficking in persons (humans-own emphasis) as;
‘…recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons through…force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power, or vulnerability, or giving payments to a person in control of the victim for purposes of exploitation…and where the consent of the victim is irrelevant upon establishment of an illicit means (UN 2011, Art 3b Par [a]).
This definition has three elements related to the first and will be explored in the subsequent paragraph.
The three elements referenced to the preceding paragraph are criminal nature of the act, means of commission thereof, and its exploitative nature. First, the action must amount to a crime duly recognised as such under the existing penal order (Väyrynen, 2005, p. 2). When it comes to means, this definition recognises that illegal custody of a person can be a product of force, coercion, deception, domination, or fraud on the victims (Truong, 2001, p. 4; Doezema, 2002, p. 21). Third is its purpose since the perpetrators motive is to use their ‘power over’ to extract financial reward out of abuse of their victims (Salt, 200, p. 34). Numerous definitions mirror this one, but it would do injustice on this analysis since it is not the focus of this study.
The definition of child trafficking at the international level is simply a contextualisation of the general elements to capture children (a specific demographic group) as victims of the vice. Therefore, child trafficking is defined shortly as the movement of children within and across borders, whether by force or not, with the sole purpose of exploiting them (UN, 2007, p. 1; Montgomery, 2011, p. 776). Significantly, the elementary basis of this definition is more or less similar to the general one. Foremost, it entails individuals who are under the age of 18 years old being moved under an organised system of procurement (Dottridge, 2004, p. 16). Second is the vulnerability of children since they are put under captivity. Criminality of the act is another element here and it is based on the purpose for which the child is moved (Davidson, 2011, p. 456). In this regard, the ultimate exploitation of the child is what counts whether they are moved consensually, through coercion, or fraud (Greenbaum and Crawford-Jakubiak, 2015, p. 4). Similarly, the fact that the mover does the act with the knowledge or lack thereof of the preceding is immaterial (UN, 2007, p. 1). Looking at these elements, one can only conclude that it is the commoditisation of boys and girls under the age of 18 within and across borders.
The United Nations Palermo Protocol is relevant reference for a comprehensive definition of child trafficking since it details the implementation of the Palermo Convention. It defines it as “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt” of a child for the purpose of exploitation” (Setter and Baker, 2018, p. 5). A look at this definition indicates that it follows the same elementary basis with a specific interest on children (Insight, 2003, p. 2). It is also indicative that there is an agreement on the settled and working definition of human and child trafficking. Consequently, the UK definition mirrors the global one.
To discern the UK’s official definition of human and child trafficking in particular, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 would make a good reference point. According to Section 2 (1) of the Act, any person who arranges, or facilitates the travel of another person for with the view to being exploited commits the offence of human trafficking. Sub-section 2 thereof states that it is immaterial whether the victim of trafficking consented or not. This definition is foundationally similar to the global perspective given that it touches on nearly all elements discussed in the global perspective (Brayley and Cockbain, 2014, p. 173). This includes movement that caters for internal and cross border organised movement of persons. It also entails the ultimate exploitation of victims for which the knowledge of the perpetrator is irrelevant. Fundamentally, the United Kingdom perspective is a contextualisation of the global one.
The UK perspective on child trafficking also identifies children as victims of human trafficking indirectly. This means that there is no specific definition of child trafficking within the Modern Slavery Act, 2015. However, it is considered within the wider confines of human trafficking in terms of victims (Huijsmans and Baker, 2012 p. 29). In this regard, the language used in section 1 of the Act suggests that children are equally victims of human trafficking as persons generally. For want of space and time, this analysis focuses on sub-section 5 of the referred section of the Act. It provides that the consent of a person (victim), whether they are a child or an adult, to the organised travel for exploitation is immaterial to determine whether the crime of human trafficking has occurred. Moreover, under section 56 (5), a victim of trafficking is a child if they happen to be under the age of 18 years.
The UK perspective borrows from the European Union as enshrined in its Human Rights Convention. In this regard, the European Court of Human Rights Fact Sheet dated July 2018 opined that the absence of direct reference to trafficking within the EU Convention on Human Rights is by default (Allain, 2010, p. 557). This is because the crime of human trafficking is considered as modern slavery (Davidson, 2010, p. 244). In the ruling of Ranstev vs. Cyprus and Russia, the said court held that
“…like slavery, trafficking in human beings, by its very nature and aim of exploitation, was based on the exercise of powers attaching to the right of ownership; it treated human beings as commodities to be bought and sold and put to forced labour; it implied close surveillance of the activities of victims, whose movements were often circumscribed; and it involved the use of violence and threats against victims”(European Court 2018, p.1).
From the above ruling and by extension the UK position, human trafficking victims go through slave-like conditions (Makisaka, 2009, p. 2). This includes coercion, ownership of victims, and commoditisation of humans, forced labour, violence, as well as threats (Cree, Clapton, and Smith, 2012, p. 10; Bhabha, 2005, p.2). It is clear that the UK perspective of human trafficking is derived from the global as well as EU approaches to the subject.
Historical records reveal that global human trafficking started in the medieval times. Specifically, slaves were either spoils of war or those who consented to their enslavement to settle debts (Chibba, 2012, p. 2). This involved forceful coercion, capture, and subsequent exploitation or even payment for grains borrowed from the wealthy nobles in ancient Egyptian aristocracy (Loprieno, 2012, p. 5). However, this could not satisfy demands for slave labour that was already rising in Egypt by 2575 B.C (Chibba, 2012, p. 2). To supply the required labour in Egypt, the Kingdom carried out raids in the Sahara took captives whom they then used to meet their labour requirements (Loprieno, 2012, p. 6). Notably, the scale of slavery and trafficking was concentrated to specific regions in the Middle East and North Africa.
International human trafficking as a global phenomenon based on demand and supply factors can also be traced back to trans-Saharan, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and transatlantic slave trades. Foremost, trans-Saharan, Red Sea, and Indian trade which can be dated back to 800 A.D is the first transfer of population for purposes of economic exploitation (Nunn and Wanchketon, 2008, p. 3). They were obtained from South of Sahara, in hinterlands of the Red Sea and the East Coast of Africa before being shipped to the Middle East and North African region (Nunn, 2010, p. 3). With regard to transatlantic trade, when Christopher Columbus purportedly discovered New Worlds in the Americas, European nations rushed to exploit the economic and agricultural potential of the new lands (Bravo, 2007, p. 213). Consequently, African slaves were captured by force and forcefully transferred to work in the agricultural lands in the new destinations of North and South America (Eltis, 2014, p. 5). Therefore, the movement of vulnerable people across continental and intercontinental borders is not a new phenomenon.
In contemporary terms, human trafficking thrives within the expanding reach of a globalised and capitalised economic system. Notably, perpetrators of modern human trafficking take advantage of the interconnected global economy to create a networks that link buyers and sellers of human beings within and across national borders (Brewer 2009, p. 46). The demand and supply aspects of economics not only create, but also sustain the seamless trade of an international scale (Cyrus and Vogel, 2015, p. 20). In fact, the market dynamics of human trafficking is predicated on socio-economic inequality around the world (Barner, Okech, and Camp, 2014, p. 107). This makes the poor vulnerable to human trafficking because of the existing demand from the wealthy and readily available supply form the less economically endowed (Whetaon, Schauer, and Galli, 2010, p. 117). This creates a complete market made of buyers, sellers, and intermediaries.
A rational choice theoretical perspective lays the foundations for understanding the economics behind intra-national and international nature of human trafficking. Foremost, the theory posits that people are rational beings and can make a choice between desisting from and committing a crime depending on the cost and benefit that arises therefrom (Schauer and Wheaton, 2006, p. 161; Majeed and Malik 2017, p. 355). In light of this, decision making of criminals is supported by freewill, which capitalises on existing opportunities, circumstances, and successful commission of a criminal enterprise (Lutya and Lainer, 2012, p. 557). Therefore, participants in global human trafficking networks are driven by the global opportunities for transfer of their victims who are in turn serve the needs of their captors.
From the preceding paragraph, players in the international human trafficking have access to local and international markets to facilitate and sustain their trade. Consequently, human trafficking networks are spread within national and across international borders of nation state (Jones, Engstrom, Hillard, and Diaz, 2007, p. 108). This means that perpetrators and victims of human trafficking are located all over the world and so are the markets (Sari, 2010, p. 232). As a result, perpetrators opt for either retaining intra-national operations or spreading their activities cross borders activities depending on the existing demand and supply (Le Baron, 2016, p. 385). This has been be achieved through increased mobility in between international destinations, availability of information technology and movement of capital (Jones et al., 2007, p. 109). Consequently, no state is spared as either a human trafficking source or destination so long there are supporting factors.
Reliable statistics on the extent of modern day slavery are hard to come by given the covert nature in which the practice is carried out. However, there are those that provide indicators on the global extent of the vice and subsequent reactions despite their limitations (O’Driscoll, 2017, p. 4). In light of the aforementioned, the U.S Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, between 2011 and 2018 the number of victims of human trafficking in Africa rose from 8,900 to 24,138 (Department of State, 2018, p. 55). In East Asia and the Pacific, there were 8,454 victims in 2011 compared to 10,819 in 2017 (Department of State, 2018, p. 56). In the same period under review the victims of human trafficking in Europe rose marginally from 10,185 in 2011 to 12,750 victims in 2017 (Department of State, 2017, p. 57). There were similar increases in the same period in the Near East, South and Central Asia as well as, the Western Hemisphere where there was an remarkable increase in the number of such victims (Department of State, 2018, pp. 58-60). Therefore, this is a phenomenon affecting the entire globe as the report indicates that all regions of the world experience it.
There are other reports that lend credence to the global nature of human trafficking. In this regard, the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery reports that 40 million people were victims of modern slavery for purposes of forced labour and marriage in 2016 (International Labour Organisation-ILO 2017, p. 5). In addition, the prevalence rate for human trafficking worldwide stood at 5.4 persons for every 1000 people. On a grim note, one in four victims of human trafficking were children while 71 percent of the same were either women or girls (ILO, 2017, p. 5). On a cumulative basis, over 80 million people experienced some form of modern slavery between 2011 and 2016 (ILO, 2017, p. 5). While these estimates may not be entirely accurate, they point out to the globalised nature of this phenomenon.
A brief look into the official reports, parts of which have been highlighted above, indicate that human trafficking is on the rise. This chapter is dedicated to identifying specific reasons behind it.
Human trafficking thrives due to an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor across all dimensions. For example, developed nations create demand for child and women trafficking and across borders where the poor are lured through promises of lucrative opportunities there in (Vogel, 2017, p. 209). Upon reaching the destination country, prostitution rings therein subject women are either subjected to forced captivity and subsequent sexual exploitation to the exclusive benefit of their ‘owner’ (Barner et al., 2014, p. 155). This can also be seen within the current context of forced and economic migration where international trafficking rings abuse their vulnerability (Hernandez and Rudolph, 2011, p.6). In fact, survey on the victims of human trafficking reveal that most of them emanate from poor countries and economically deprived backgrounds (Okech, McGarity, Hansen, Burns, and Howard, 2017, p. 8). In fact, most of these victims have a poor education background. Therefore, wealth creates demand for exploitative labour and poverty furnishes the supply end of the illegal and inhuman enterprise.
Globalisation has created international markets and illegal networks that supply human commodities like men, women, and children for exploitation and profits. Indeed, perpetrators capitalise on the global financial networks, mobility, and transnational demand for sexual gratification including child pornography (Fong and Cardoso, 2010, p. 312). This creates favourable conditions for furnishing the globalised demand through the supply of victims courtesy of international migration (Peerapeng and Chaitip, 2013, p. 55; Weitzer, 2015, p. 228; Nagle, 2008, p. 132). As a result, human trafficking networks are able to recruit their victims on a global scale and supply the global markets depending on the opportunity cost dynamics (Hodge and Lietz, 2007, p.166). Even though the connection between human trafficking is yet to be firmly established, there is a theoretical basis for connecting globalisation as a factor of human trafficking.
Corruption especially among government officers manning national borders and security is also a factor that contributes to the rising cases of human trafficking. This happens when criminal trafficking networks are paid to desist from enforcing the law to stop human trafficking (Uddin, 2014, p. 20; Agbu, 2002, p. 3). Ordinarily, the victims of trafficking are supposed to rely on the assurance of government protection from exploitation through its security and border control officers (Clark, 2003, p. 249). However, the said government officials are abettors of the same or actively involved in it (Stanslas, 2010, p. 604). Actually, with each illegal movement of humans across borders, probably a government official has received a bribe to facilitate such criminal activity (McCarthy, 2010, p. 10). This trend is common in developing nations that are source markets for human victims of trafficking.
Nigeria is the case study of a country whose corruption acts as an enabler of human and child trafficking across the globe. In a country with institutionalized corruption, there is a commensurate waste of resources leading to poverty (Agbu 2003, p. 3). The aforementioned state of affairs means that her young generation is hungry for opportunities to change their lives (Vogel, 2017, p. 209). Consequently, they are vulnerable to being lured through false promises of better living and working conditions in Europe where they find themselves in captivity. As a result, statistics have it that the number of deported Nigerian victims of trafficking were over 1100 excluding the dead and those stranded in European capitals and cities (Agbu 2003, p. 5). Theoretically, there is a connection between government corruption and human trafficking with regard to corruption fuelled local poverty in developing nations.
Most countries in the world have local anti-human trafficking and immigration legal frameworks, but a significant number are yet to adopt the Palermo Protocol. This has a critical implication on the enforcement of global anti-human trafficking legal frameworks (Trajano, 2018, p. 6). With a regulatory mechanism that falls short of the globally accepted standards, human trafficking activities are difficult to control effectively (Todres, 2011, p. 58). The aforementioned occurs due to ineffective apprehension, prosecution, and punishment mechanism to lower the opportunity cost (Gallagher and Karlebach, 2011, p. 10). ECPAT identifies Cambodia as an example of such a country, where lack of a globally benchmarked regulation that has resulted in uncoordinated enforcement of anti-child trafficking laws (Griffiths, Mendizabal, and Vichuta, 2007, p. 9). From the preceding, human trafficking crimes shall continue to grow unless states reorient their anti-human trafficking laws to global standards.
Since the global economic crisis in 2008 and after investments and employment opportunities have led to mass migration from developing to developed nations through legal and illegal means. In this regard, irregular migration creates opportunities for human trafficking rings to exploit the vulnerabilities of men, women, and children seeking better opportunities abroad (Lansink, 2006, p. 46; Chapkis, 2003, p. 925). This is because illegal immigrants lack proper documentation such as residency permits or visas to allow them to work legally (Anderson and Andrijasevic, 2010, p. 141). Consequently, they become vulnerable to exploitation of all kinds from sexual exploitation, illegal adoptions, forced labour, and organ harvesting (Patel and Mahan, 2015, p. 1; Purvis 2010, p. 4). Their vulnerability is further aggravated by the fact that illegal immigrants have a limited choice since their countries of origin are in either war or civil unrest (Truong and Angeles, 2005, p. 10; Srinkantiah, 2007, p. 161). In light of all this, migration may not be a direct cause, but a facilitative factor of human trafficking.
Human trafficking targeting men, women, and children is a global phenomenon affecting several countries across the world including the United Kingdom. In this regard, this study acknowledges that the UK is both a source as well as a destination for human trafficking and subsequent exploitation of specifically children (Center for Security Development and the Rule of Law-DCAF 2018, p. 1). Accordingly, the UK Home Office through its National Referral Mechanism (NRM), found that children comprised 41 percent of victims of human trafficking in 2016 (UK Government, 2018, p. 4). These children were either subjected to forced labour and coerced criminality, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, as well as organ harvesting (ECPAT 2018, p. 7). Notably, this official statistics are hardly accurate given the covert nature of trafficking business (Tyldum and Brunovskis, 2005, p. 25). However, there is a need to improve on detection and data collection of child trafficking business.
Socially, human trafficking has a detrimental effect on children’s social wellbeing and development. Foremost, they are disconnected from their families in strange environments that are characterised by sexual exploitation and physical abuse (Rafferty, 2008, p. 14; Rafferty, 2013, p. 561). Moreover, such child victims go through psychological torture because of isolation and improper care (Deshpande and Nour, 2013, p. 26). In addition, in East Asia, adult and child victims of trafficking are stigmatised by their families or totally rejected (Crawford and Kaufman, 2006, p. 12). This has a detrimental effect on their ability to develop social interactions in the future or cope within normal social structures (Makinde, 2015, p. 3). Certainly, human trafficking has a serious implication on the best psychosocial development of the victim.
Legally, human trafficking is viewed within a human rights context with regard to the individual violations that accompany it. Such infractions are deemed to contravene the fundamental freedoms that accrue to individuals under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN Human Rights Commission, 2014, p. 6; Fitzpatrick, 2002, p. 1164; Jordan, 2002, p. 30). For instance, subjecting toddlers (or even) adults to sexual exploitation, physical abuse, and organ harvesting is a gross violation of their human rights (Preez and Simmonds, 2013, p. 106). Secondly, holding them captive under coercive conditions is tantamount to depriving them of their liberty, freedom of choice, and expression (Goodey, 2008, p. 437). It also violates their right to education, food, and proper healthcare from the unhygienic conditions under which they are held (ILO 2002, p. 17). These violations largely inform the criminalisation of human trafficking.
UK government’s active and proactive responses to trafficking of children generally since there are no age specific laws, policies, or administrative measures. In light of the aforementioned, the responses range from action plans, legislation, law enforcement, and institutional mechanisms for reporting and coordination of law enforcement (Evans, 2007, p, 65). These legislative responses have been constituted under the 4 P’s framework to pursue, prevent, protect and lastly prepare for cases of child trafficking (UK Government, 2018, p. 5). Moreover, Her Majesty’s Government also incorporates international law and related commitments against the trafficking of children (Lipscombe and Beard, 2014, p. 25). Other responses include partnership with the private sector including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) involved in child protection (Musto, 2008, p. 16). This shall be the focus of this part of the dissertation.
The UK has ratified a key international instruments to demonstrate its commitment to combating child trafficking. Foremost, it ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Harris, Sandland, and Akullo 2009, p. 5). Specifically, this international convention calls upon states to treat elimination of the worst form of child labor as a matter of urgency. The said forms of labour include use of children in war, slavery, sexual exploitation, child prostitution and pornography, serfdom, debt bondage, as well as in production of illicit drugs (ILO 2002, p. 20). Through the ratification, the UK has signified its commitment to be bound by the provisions of the treaty and to enforce them within its jurisdiction (Dixon, McCorquodale, and Williams 2011, p. 63). In essence, this ratification signifies UK’s commitment to fight against worst forms of child contemporary slavery.
The UK has also ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. This international instrument was intended to curb human trafficking, money laundering, and drug trafficking among others (Gastrow 2011, p. 3). To give effect to its operations, the treaty is supplemented by two significant protocols. Foremost is the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN 2004, p. 41). This protocol seeks to prevent the trafficking of women and children for prostitution, organ removal, and forced labour (Goodey 2003, p. 423). Next is the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (UN 2004, p. 53). It intends to combat the illegal smuggling of persons whether with or without their consent contrary to prevailing laws on migration (Davidson 2011, p. 460). This response demonstrates that the UK assumes the responsibility to tame human trafficking whether through smuggling or international human trafficking networks.
The United Kingdom has ratified regional treaties against child trafficking. This includes the Palermo Protocol as well as EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Haynes, 2016, p. 37). Significantly, the form and content of the Modern Slavery Act was informed by the regional and international treaties to provide for coordinated action in anti-child trafficking measures within government agencies and non-state actors (Sharapov, 2017, p. 94; Morgan, 2015, p. 1). This facilitates internal as well as international cooperation in the fight against child trafficking through investigation, apprehension, extradition, and punishment of international child traffickers (Haughley, 2016, p. 20; Fardin, Milani, Rasekhand Beiranvand, 2018, p. 433). The collaborative approaches with local NGO’s shall be explored in detail in the social responses part.
Modern Slavery Act, 2015 is the primary legislation that governs the efforts against child trafficking in the United Kingdom. It provides a consolidated approach for law enforcement agencies to investigate, prosecute, and punish child traffickers (Johnstone, 2017, p. 221-222). The said legislation criminalises the trafficking of children within and without the United Kingdom for purposes of exploitation (Gallagher and Holmes, 2009, p. 334). Moreover, the Act expressly defines child trafficking along key elements in order to facilitate investigation, adduction of evidence, as well as prosecution of criminals. In terms of punishment, the sentences have been enhanced to a minimum of 14 years and a maximum of life imprisonment (Gravett, 2015, p. 29). It also creates compensation for victims of human trafficking from the assets of their perpetrators and creates pre-emptive measures to prevent incidences of trafficking (Weatherburn, 2016, p. 4). The legal measures in this Act are comprehensive even though their efficacy has been cast into doubt.
The Modern Slavery Act also created the post of an independent UK anti-slavery Commissioner. The role of this office is to provide leadership in the fight against the trafficking of adults and more importantly children (Gravett 2015, p. 30). Moreover, the said office was charged with the responsibility of encouraging best practices for the prevention of human trafficking and identification of victims (Gravett 2015, p. 30). The Commissioner also publishes annual reports on human trafficking within, without, and through the United Kingdom (Gravett 2015, p. 30). From the aforementioned, this office acts as a nerve centre for coordinating anti-human trafficking efforts.
As far as achievement is concerned, this office is formed the Santa Marta Group comprised of NGO’s, civil society, international organisations and the Catholic Church. This group was to provide an avenue where different expertise from non-state actors would be infused into the fight against human trafficking (Hyland 2015, p. 6). Significantly, this co-ordinated approach to fighting this menace through a multi-sectorial approach for effective prevention of human trafficking (Commissioner 2017, p. 33). In this regard, the group allows for the development of collaborative strategies to tackle the problem of human trafficking (Commissioner 2017, p. 12). However, it is too general and lacks a specific strategy for combating the trafficking of children between the ages of 2 to 3years.
Sexual Offences Act, 2003 is another response against child trafficking within, without, or through England and Wales. The aforementioned Act criminalized the trafficking of adults and children for sexual purposes within the domain of Her Majesty’s Government (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 5). Accordingly, distance does not matter with regard to movement and facilitation of the same. Consequently, it could even be within the same building albeit in different apartments (Brayley, Cockbain, and Laycock 2011, p. 134). Notably, the maximum punishment for such a crime is a custodial sentence of up to 14 years (Brayley et al. 2011, p. 134). Other Acts with similar legal application in Scotland include the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 and Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005 (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 5). Like many other criminal law statute, this approach is retributory, more perpetrator centred and relatively less victim focused.
There has also been a response with regard to persons trafficked internationally into, out of, or within the UK for other purposes rather than for sexual exploitation. In this regard, the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004, criminalizes the aforementioned conduct within England, Scotland, and Wales (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 5). Under Section 4 thereof, trafficking of adult or children within, without the United Kingdom is an offence whether with the victim’s consent or not provided they know that the victim is likely to be exploited. Such exploitation may manifest through forced labour, organ harvesting, child adoption, and child marriage among others (Gravett 2015, p. 28). Like all other statutory provisions discussed above, it is more perpetrator centred and focuses on child protection.
Best interest of the child principle under the UK law informs the protection mechanism for child victims of trafficking. In this regard, all anti-trafficking legal provisions incorporate the welfare and interests of the child when investigating and prosecuting child traffickers. On the contrary, the enforcement of this Act ignores the welfare of child victims of trafficking in terms of post-captivity support as reliable case studies have demonstrated. The case of Steven, a Vietnam citizen who was trafficked into the United Kingdom at the age of 10 years is a good example. For legal reasons, EPCAT gave scanty details of the case due to legal obligations arising from its sensitivity.
22.214.171.124 Case Study: Steven, A Vietnam Minor Trafficked into the UK for Forced Labour Exploitation in Cannabis Farms within the UK
Steven, a Vietnamese orphan, was trafficked into the United Kingdom from his home country at the age of 10 years. He was subsequently kept under contemporary slavery conditions in residential houses that had been converted into cannabis farms (ECPAT 2018, par 1). Moreover, he spent a lot of time in solitary confinement when out of work and in need of much needed rest. His working hours were also long coupled with the exposure to lamps that were used to illuminate the indoor farms (ECPAT 2018, par 1). To make matters worse, the farms had exposed electric coper wires that subjected him to frequent electric shocks. Other gross violation of his person included frequent beatings and limitation of his liberty to enjoy his childhood (ECPAT 2018, par 2). This amounted to a violation of his fundamental human rights as enshrined in all human rights instruments that have an applicability effect in the UK.
The above mentioned victim of child trafficking was rescued from his captors at the age of 16, but this victory was short lived. In this regard, the police department put him under foster care in the North East of England (ECPAT 2018, par 2). He was able to attend school and meet new acquaintances, and make new friends. However, at the age of 17 his entitlement to remain in the United Kingdom was withdrawn and he was facing deportation back to Vietnam. Such a verdict on his stay in the UK exposed him to trafficking in a country where he does not have familial relations (ECPAT 2018, par 2). Therefore, United Kingdom law focuses fails to guarantee the permanent stay of child victims even if it goes against their best interest principle.
The UK Action Plan on Human Trafficking was jointly published by the UK Home Office and Scottish Executive in 2007 with three main objectives. It is made up of four chapters that address issues of prevention, investigation, law enforcement, and prosecution, protection and assistance to adult victims, as well as child trafficking (Home Office and Scottish Executive 2007, pp. 8-11). As far as prevention is concerned, the government seeks to stop trafficking from the source and transit countries. When it comes to investigation, law enforcement, and prosecution, the government aims to make the UK a hostile environment for traffickers through strict enforcement of the legal framework for tackling trafficking in human beings. The said component also involves international collaboration as well as data collection for evidence based policy interventions. The plan’s focus on protection and assistance of adult victims is the human rights approach to the plan through safe custody and support services to adult victims of human trafficking. In terms of protection of child victims, the plan recognises the need to tailor-make protection interventions that suit their realities. Each of the four chapters focuses on victims, but the enforcement of the law reveals otherwise as it has been discussed in the previous part of this dissertation.
This action plan had three key objectives at its formation. Foremost, the UK government intended to restate its focus on the victims of human trafficking in its war against commoditization of adults and children (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 5). Secondly, it was a strategy document aimed at developing effective interventions and co-ordinated approach among agencies involved in enforcing anti-human trafficking laws (Home Office and Scottish Executive 2007, p. 9). Next, the action plan sought to expand the limitation of policy and enforcement practices against human trafficking (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 6). From the aforementioned, this key policy document sought to affirm UK government commitment to protecting child and adult victims.
The Action plan update in 2008 had far reaching impacts on the collection of data on child victims of trafficking among other. In this regard, it proposed for the creation of a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to facilitate the coordinated approach to identification as well referral for support of potential victims (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 6). Since then the NRM has become a primary data source for the victims of trafficking whether adults or children (Sereni and Baker 2018, p. 23). Consequently, it is relied upon by other government agencies concerned with human trafficking for evidence based decision making (Sereni and Baker 2018, p. 38). However, this system has been criticised for lacking in child protection specialists as well as bypassing all other established identification and protection of potential victims (Patel and Mahan 2015, p. 3). Another criticism of the system has been is that it lacks robust data collection systems to fully capture data on actual trafficked victims. In this regard, it only recorded about 5,000 cases against an estimated 10,000 victims (Sereni and Baker 2018, p. 23). This has been attributed to the fact that only victims who have been identified and consented to referral have their data recorded in the NRM data base (Sereni and Baker 2018, p. 23). In all this, the NRM mechanism lacks a child specific strategy of data collection since trafficked children face unique circumstances to their adult counterparts.
The National Referral Mechanism under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 allows for identification of victims and according them support (Simon, Setter, and Holmes, 2016, p. 8; Hynes, 2015, p. 69). It also provides for data collection on the victims of trafficking for evidence based action and review on the efficacy of anti-trafficking legal and policy initiatives (Oram, Zimmerman, Adams, and Buzsa, 2011, p. 8). However, according to ECPAT, the support system under the NRM mechanism has been put in doubt through the case of one victim identified as Steven (ecpat.org.uk). He was abducted in the Vietnam and trafficked to the UK to work in Cannabis farms where he was regularly tortured. He was finally rescued and put under foster care and was able to continue with his education at the age of 16 years (ecpat.org.uk). However, victim support does not guarantee their leave to remain in the UK and was facing deportation back to Vietnam (ecpat.org.uk). The outcome of the NRM system is that victims may be taken back to their home countries where they face untold stigmatisation and further possibility of being trafficked.
Case Study: Operation Pentameter
The National Action Plan gave rise to Operation Pentameter, a multi-agency enforcement program to tackle the problem of modern slavery. Specifically, the operation involved the police forces in Great Britain, UK Immigration Service, Serious and Organised Crimes Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lipscombe and Beard 2014, p. 16). Their mandate was to investigate the extent of the problem of human trafficking and to improve intelligence gathering on organised criminal groups as well as their activities. Second, they were charged with the responsibility of increasing awareness on human trafficking among the local populations (Home Office and Scottish Executive 2007, p. 9). Moreover, they were supposed to introduce interventions for rescuing victims and reduce the extent of the harm meted against them while in captivity (Lipscombe and Beard 2014, p. 17). Next, the multi-agency and country collaboration sought to provide for recovery of perpetrator assets that have been acquired through the proceeds of this human trafficking. Significantly, the operation also sought to reduce the opportunity cost of carrying out the crimes in the UK by making it difficult for them to operate within the border of Great Britain (Lipscombe and Beard 2014, p. 17). In light of this, administrative measures have yielded more victim focused interventions with regard to contemporary people trafficking.
Human Trafficking Action Plan was further amended in 2008 to provide clarity on the victim centred approaches of tackling the problem of human trafficking. Notably, it outlined the overall strategy in four significant interventions. In this regard, the first strategy under the amended action plan was to increase the understanding of the problem and to appreciate the push and pull factors that increase trafficking of humans (Home Office and Scottish Executive 2007, p. 8). The second focus was on investigations, law enforcement, and prosecution of suspected criminals. Under it, the law enforcement agencies are able co-ordinate their respective mandates to combat crimes outlined in Sexual Offences Act 2003, Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. The two aforementioned acts of parliament have been discussed in on the part on legal interventions (see part 3.1.1).
UKHTC was established under the UK Action Plan for Human Trafficking. At its formation, it was intended that to aid the collaborative efforts with other agencies to combat human trafficking (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 6). It plays a role in designing the data collection methodologies, information gathering, as well as being a central data source on trafficking of human beings within the United Kingdom. It is also charged with the responsibility of development of expertise through the identification of operational gaps in the fight against human trafficking (Craig, Gaus, Wilkinson, Skrivankova, McQuade 2007, p. 58). Another priority for human trafficking is to build knowledge base on human trafficking through the appreciation of the harm to victims. This is necessary to ensure that the government agencies formulate appropriate responses (Craig et al. 2007, p. 38). Like the National Referral mechanism, it also co-ordinates the protection and support for victims of child trafficking. Last, the Center is also key in facilitating interstate and multi-state agencies to fight against organised crime (Gravett 2015, p. 5). Thus far, the protection and identification of children within this set up provides some relief as far as combating child trafficking through organised crime syndicates in the UK and abroad.
Victims of child trafficking lack the requisite right to remain in the United Kingdom upon being rescued. Specifically, this is formulated around the policy of limiting illegal immigration within the United Kingdom (Chuang 2006, p. 146). In this regard, their legal care and protection is limited to temporary residency permits and asylum processing under the Geneva Convention of 1951 (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 8). Furthermore, the United Kingdom government uses temporary detention of victims pending their deportation back to their countries of origin. It also makes provisions for tracing of the child’s family for purposes of safe repatriation and settlement in their home countries (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 9). Others interventions in this regard include their access to free healthcare like British citizens and asylum seekers as per the Immigration Act of 1971. Notably, child victims are not entitled to an education in a bid to rebuild their shattered childhood (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 9). From the foregoing, it is clear that UK social responses to child trafficking may in the end lead expose the victims to re-trafficking especially after they have been repatriated to their home countries.
Her Majesty’s government continues to work closely with non-state actors to provide social support towards victims of trafficking especially children. An instance of this kind of collaboration can be seen in the case of a victim simply named as Dorina (Unseen. Org). Dorina was trafficked into the United Kingdom at the age of 10. She was subsequently held captive by her traffickers and repeatedly sexually abused. However, when she finally escaped to her captors, she met a police officer, explained her story and the said officer directed her to Unseen UK (Unseen. Org). The organisation not only accorded her protection, but also arranged for her residency in the United Kingdom (Unseen. Org). This is a productive means through which organisations can serve both protective functions in collaboration with government agencies.
Political responses to the problem of human and child trafficking in particular can be classified into two main categories. Foremost is that the trafficking of children constitutes a criminal act and can be tackled through the criminal justice system (Van Dyke 2019, p. 48). Consequently, the government’s policy response was influenced by the UN Convention on Serious and Organised Crime which urged for criminalisation of human trafficking (Van Dyke 2019, p. 50). Next, the political class see it as a human rights violation that contravenes the fundamental human rights of the affected children. Under this policy consideration, the political response in Britain was geared towards protection of victims as well as re-integrating them back to society (Van Dyke 2019, p. 52). In light of this, the policy and political response have influenced the legislative and policy directions to combat the trafficking of children.
Reforms that led the consolidation of trafficking laws in the United Kingdom would not be possible without the involvement of the political class. Before the said reforms, problems child trafficking was largely tackled within the Children Act as well as Immigration regulations (Goodey, 2005, p. 416; Crawley, 2011, p. 1179). However, the introduction of Modern Slavery Bill before the UK parliament saw the cooperation of critics as well as supporters of the proposed law (Broedrick, 2005, p. 5). This enabled the Act to be passed in 2015 free of the partisan approaches that characterise the law making process in the legislature (Craig, 2015, p. 137). Furthermore, through the efforts of the politicians, the Modern Slavery law covered both the criminal aspects as well as the interest of the victims.
The trafficking of children is also a global phenomenon affecting many countries in the entire globe. Consequently, the local legal mechanisms for combating the crime is influenced by the international legal frameworks covering the same (Adelson, 2008, p. 98). This is why United Kingdom regulations such as the Modern Slavery Act, Sexual Offences Act 2003 and other legislations have been largely modelled along the treaties, protocols, and conventions that it is a party to (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 5). Nonetheless, the country’s unilateral adoption of the international models without considering her internal realities may pose a challenge (Balch and Geddes 2011 p. 28). For instance, the international legal regime defines a child as a person under the age of 18 which has subsequently been adopted by the UK (Balch and Geddes 2011 p. 28). However, the blanket grouping of children into one age category ignores the protective measures that may be needed for children between the ages 2 and 3 years old.
From the analysis in this dissertation, it is clear that the UK government has joined the global community in the fight against human trafficking. This has been achieved through her ratification of international and regional EU treaties to combat modern trafficking of children. In this regard, the country has taken deliberate legal and social measures that allow for investigation, prosecution, and punishment of perpetrators of human trafficking. However, the statutes and supporting policies are too general to cover specific human rights abuses that may be meted against traffickers of children under the age of three. This emanates from the generalised definition of a child as a person under 18 years old. Therefore, the official data rarely focuses specifically on this particular group.
Human trafficking is complex in nature and very dynamic yet the existing legal framework focuses on the well understood ones. Against this background, the existing laws and conventions focuses on trafficking for slavery, servitude, forced labour, and organ removal (Van Dyke 2019, p. 47). The UK’s response to modern slavery: law, policy and politics. In this regard, the National Referral Mechanism arbitrarily borrows from the categorisation envisaged under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and other statutes (Van Dyke 2019, p. 48). As a result, this approach is so narrow because it ignores the realities behind the trafficking of children within, without, and into the United Kingdom (Setter 2019, p. 123). In this regard, the data provided by the NRM and the UKHTC does not capture child victims under the age of three.
The national data base that is maintained by the NRM has its own share of shortcomings in the fight against child trafficking. In this regard, the NRM relies on referrals made by local authorities as to the existence of suspected cases of child and adult trafficking (Setter 2019, p. 124). Also under this reporting and referral mechanism, only those victims who consent to their data being captured make part of the official statistics. For instance, in 2017 there were 5,000 cases of human trafficking in the UK (Setter 2019, p. 124). However, unofficial estimates indicate that the total figures of victims of trafficking within the United Kingdom exceeded 10,000 for the same period (Bales, Hedwards, and Silverman 2018, p. 13). Consequently, the data on child trafficking in the United Kingdom is largely underestimated leading to less effective interventions.
Failure to capture and aggregate data on children victims of human trafficking is also another weakness of the anti-child trafficking legal and policy interventions. In essence, the definition of children under the modern slavery Act restricts it to persons under 18 years (Dottridge, 2004, p. 16). Notably, there is no problem with this approach, but there is a need to further disaggregate data for the various category of children for comprehensive legal and policy responses (O’ Driscoll 2017, p. 2). The appropriateness of this finding is that children under the age of three are rarely trafficked for forced labor, servitude, child marriage, organ removal and debt bondage among others (Garvett 2015, p. 13). However, they can be trafficked for other reasons such as illegal child adoption and other reasons that are officially classified as unknown (Setter 2019, p. 124). The challenge for this approach is that, it does not prepare the law enforcement agencies for enforcing the law when it comes to the prevention of children in this age category.
Duplicity of the system for protecting and preventing child abuse between the separate existing agencies is a reason for concern. For instance, both the National Referral Mechanism and the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Center carry out similar duties (Craig et al. 2017, p. 58; Sereni and Baker 2018, p. 23). In this regard, both of them are involved in data collection which and design of data collection tools. This may result in conflicting data since the NRM has been accused of ignoring and bypassing other agencies in its data collection efforts (Bales et al. 2018, p. 17). This will make it difficult to obtain reliable data upon which to gather evidence for decision making.
Most of the legislations in the United Kingdom expose victims to the possibility of being re-trafficked. This is because they are accorded minimum protection and provision of social support such as health, safe custody, and protection among others (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 8). However, under the immigration statutes children who have been rescued do not have the right to remain in the United Kingdom. Consequently, this children may be repatriated back to their countries to face similar circumstances that led to their trafficking in the first place (Dixon et al. 2011, p. 9). Apart from this, the United Kingdom does not have a specific protection and assistance mechanism for children under the age of 3.
The United Kingdom for assistance protection mechanisms for child victims is a key component under the existing legal regime. In this regard, the framework for social care and protection considers only four areas that affect children (Cree et al. 2010, p. 38). This includes forced marriages, sexual exploitation, economic exploitation, and inter-country adoption. However, there are other unknown reasons for which children may be trafficked (Van Dyke 2019, p. 49). This may be worsened by the fact that the state and its representative agencies are yet to fully prepare for combating trafficking of children in the age category of between 2 and three years.
From the above findings of this study, the following recommendations shall be relevant for policy research and development in the enforcement of anti-child trafficking. Importantly, the bias of this recommendations is with regard to children under the age of three years.
- The UK government data collection agencies such as UKHTC and NRM should begin to disaggregate data in their research methodologies. This shall facilitate a full appreciation of the extent of child trafficking in the United Kingdom and appropriate measures to tackle it.
- Social protection measures for children under the age of three should be specifically designed to cater for them. This should also take cognisance of the best interests of the child and where family tracing fails, then the government should consider having a specific law on how their guardians can be appointed.
- Since the NRM and UKHTC carry out similar functions in terms of data collection, the role should be assigned to one of the bodies. This will help to avert duplication of data collection and the ensuing confusion in terms of policy interventions.
- There is a need for advocacy on child trafficking of children in this age category across the United Kingdom to prepare the public and law enforcement agencies in spotting cases of child trafficking under the age of three years old.
The United Kingdom response to child trafficking has so far been commendable compared to its counterparts in the developing nations. In this regard, it has ratified international instruments that signify its commitment to combating this crime. Moreover, its legal framework is well designed to combat the trafficking of children generally. However, there are challenges when it comes to specific legislations and policy documents in this regard. The first policy gap is that there is no provision for specific age categories of child victims of trafficking. Consequently, all child victims are subjected to the same treatment as their wider counterparts when it comes to prevention, protection, and prosecution approaches.
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