I am delighted to be here with you and thank you Anne [Reed] for inviting me to speak today.
Thank you also to the Salvation Army and its partners for the incredible work you do, day in day out, at the coalface, looking after and supporting victims of the terrible crime of Human Trafficking.
For me Human Trafficking is a scourge. It does not discriminate. It permeates across age, race, sex and gender; It also crushes self-confidence and self-esteem, which are pre-requisites for aspiration, motivation and success.
The exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children by predatory criminal groups is something that no civilised country should tolerate. It creates victims who are often some of the most vulnerable members of society. Separated from family and friends with no access to financial help or support.
As I speak to you today I am reminded of a young man, Mike, who I met in October last year. He dispelled many of the myths that surround Human Trafficking. He is a man, he is British, and was trafficked for forced labour.
It’s not just women or foreign nationals being sexually exploited that suffer at the hands of traffickers. He bravely shared with me his story of absolute misery. How he was de-humanised and degraded.
And it drove home just how important it is for this Government, local authorities and all of our partners to do all we can to stamp out this sickening crime.
Over the last few years good progress has been made in tackling and combating trafficking. There is a wide range of laws to protect victims. There is a wide range of organisations that support victims
But there is still so much more to be done in terms of:
- improving prosecution and conviction rates
- improving data collection to gain a better understanding of the nature and scale of the problem
- dealing with on-going skepticism greeting victims when they try to report abuse, sadly often coming from people who should know better, such as teachers, GPs, police officers.
Our Government’s ambition is to eradicate all forms of trafficking and last year we spent three million pounds supporting victims of this dreadful exploitation.
- our aim is to tackle the issue at source.
- work smarter at our borders.
- better law enforcement, better training of front-line professionals.
- preventing people becoming victims in the first place.
- nationally the inter-ministerial group on Human Trafficking brings together all parts of government. It raises awareness of trafficking across the UK and highlights the support that is available.
- victims referred through the national referral mechanism get tailored care and support through the Government’s contract with the Salvation Army and in the last 18 months 681 victims have been helped in this way.
Our work to raise awareness is having a positive impact with 1186 victims identified in 2012 compared with 710 in 2010.
- Internationally the UK works closely with counterparts in source countries.
We share intelligence to help identify, prosecute and convict traffickers.
The top 5 source countries are Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania, Albania and China, who we encourage to take a lead in protecting and re-integrating victims.
These are all positive steps but our success, ultimately must be measured in terms of:
- more victims helped
- more abusers brought to justice
- more attitudes changed
Local authorities are intrinsic to stamping out trafficking and making sure victims get the support they need and deserve. Victims who are entitled to stay in the UK and who want to stay in the UK, must be able to rebuild their lives and access services provided by local authorities, such as housing support, access to benefits, and other services within communities.
I hope today’s conference inspires all of our local authority representatives to think about how you can help this process of re-integrating victims back into civilised society,
to put their past experiences behind them and to move forward to better futures.
Human Trafficking is abhorrent and inexcusable. And every time I hear about an incident or meet a victim – I think: ‘What kind of world are we living in and what can we do to make it better?’
As victims minister I will do all that I can to protect victims and to raise awareness of the issues they face. For years now victims have felt overlooked and unsupported in making their way through the Criminal Justice System that can often be confusing and intimidating. And it’s my job as victims Minister to do all that I can to put this right.
We are therefore driving through a number of reforms that will put victims at the very heart of the Criminal Justice System, where they belong.
- we are raising more money for victims through the Prisoner Earnings Act and the Victims Surcharge.
- we are giving victims a louder voice through the appointment of our excellent Victims Commissioner, Baroness Newlove.
- we are increasing victims’ entitlements through the revision of the Victims Code.
Every victim and witness of crime needs to know that they will be offered all the help they need and deserve to move on with their lives and bring perpetrators to justice.
Each of us can and must work together to identify, report and prevent Human Trafficking so that perpetrators know they have nowhere to hide.