News story

Human trafficking gangs targeted by UK government

Gangs that lure victims to UK and exploit them for sex, labour and domestic slavery are being targeted following action by the government.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A report published today by the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group (IDMG) on Human Trafficking shows that more work than ever before is being carried out both in the UK and internationally to prosecute criminals and stop trafficking gangs in their tracks.

Organised criminal gangs within countries including China, Nigeria, Vietnam, Slovakia and Romania now pose the greatest threat to the UK.

But co-ordinated action between the UK and these countries, including intelligence sharing with international police forces, lobbying governments to ratify the UN convention against transnational organised crime and raising awareness about trafficking through local media in source countries is proving effective.

Human trafficking

The government is also working with these countries to tackle the problem at its source by lobbying for changes to countries’ laws. UK prosecutors from the Crown Prosecution Service’s International Team are based in priority countries to improve their criminal justice response to traffickers, training judges, prosecutors and investigators to deal with offences better and to gather evidence and support for prosecutions in the UK.

Immigration Minister and chair of the IDMG Mark Harper said: ‘Human trafficking is abhorrent and the UK government is committed to combating this crime in all its forms.

‘We have already made significant progress in the fight against trafficking but the government is not complacent and we will continue to work to improve and strengthen our approach to keep pace with emerging threats.

‘From next year the National Crime Agency will build on existing work to combat trafficking by using its enhanced crime fighting and intelligence capabilities to target criminal gangs.’


Human trafficking statistics

The IDMG Report shows that during the past two years, thousands of front-line professionals including border staff, police and healthcare staff have been trained to better identify, support and protect those vulnerable individuals who may be suffering abuse at the hands of traffickers.

Victim profiles have been developed and given to border staff and a human trafficking intelligence and victim referral map and guidance has been issued to all border staff.

Some airlines including Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook are training cabin crew to identify those who may be engaged in trafficking and their potential victims and a 24-hour confidential line has been set up for crew to report concerns to Border Force before a plane lands in the UK.

The government is currently working with other UK based airlines to encourage them to sign-up. There is also ongoing work with other key industries including hotels and hospitality to raise awareness of trafficking.

The government has ensured that victims of trafficking who are identified are given access to a 45-day recovery period with access to safe house accommodation, signposting to domestic services including legal and housing advice and the development of a support plan which will enable victims to be located away from high risk areas or to return home to their country of origin.

Trafficked children

While local authorities have a statutory duty to look after child victims, the government is working with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England to examine the practical care arrangements for trafficked children. Good working by local authorities to maintain confidentiality around placements and limiting visits by adults who have not been formally assessed or vetted is being promoted to other authorities.

Police and prosecutors are also working together to gather tactics on child sexual exploitation cases and ensure young victims are fully supported throughout the criminal justice process. Teachers, charities and police across the world are raising awareness of child trafficking with the aid of UK made videos and educational support programmes.

Trafficking: Factfile

  • Human trafficking is the practice of seeking to make profit by the enforced exploitation of others, both adults and children. It is a modern form of slavery.
  • Human trafficking can take many forms, from sexual exploitation to labour exploitation to domestic slavery and organ harvesting. Organised gangs will keep the takings of their victims’ activities for themselves.
  • In 2011 946 potential victims of human trafficking were referred to National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which seeks to bring victims out of trafficking and to a place of safety.
  • The most prevalent source countries for potential victims who were referred into the NRM were Nigeria, China, Vietnam, Romania and Slovakia, although some victims are British.
Published 18 October 2012