Today is anti-trafficking day throughout the EU- an opportunity to press for better policies on prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims. We have a really live issue here in the UK that we simply must address. We are not compliant in some areas and we are less than fully compliant on others. One proposal of the EU directive on human trafficking is to provide protection from prosecution for trafficking victims for crimes committed whilst controlled by traffickers, pimps etc. Quoting Denis MacShane MP (from Hansard):
‘According to CARE, a Christian organisation working on the issue, the UK Government are only semi-compliant. Article 7 deals with the non-prosecution or non-application of penalties to the victim, a point made strongly by other hon. Members. Again, the UK is only semi-compliant. There is no requirement in UK law not to prosecute victims, even though the Council of Europe convention explicitly states that there should be.’
Surely this is something we all support, regardless of our political colours? The prime minister stated that we were applying all the areas of this legislation in the UK already but, with the benefit of further research, this has proved not to be the case. It appears, therefore, that the underlying reason for resisting this directive is the worry of Eurosceptics that Brussels may be over-reaching itself into our sovereign jurisdiction. Indeed, I spoke to a source close to the PM who said ‘it is the danger of mission creep’ holding back our signature. We are one of only two countries to continue to resist. As I’ve said before, we are a broadly Eurosceptic nation with a broadly Eurosceptic government. But we must not let our Euroscepticism get the better of us, clouding every initiative good and bad that originates from Brussels. As Mark Durkan MP noted later in the debate:
‘Opting into the EU directive would give us much needed greater reach against human trafficking and its perpetrators and users. More action is needed on both the control and demand sides.’
Absolutely. We need some political courage here to stop the assault on human dignity & human rights that is going on right now in grotty rooms up and down our land. We need vision and maybe we can draw inspiration from another era:
‘Wilberforce should be living at this hour’ (Denis MacShane MP)
Wilberforce may not be with us to head up this campaign but we are. Through violence and intimidation the victims have been silenced. We will be their voice.
To read a brief synopsis of the three debates last week click here.
To read the full anti-slavery day debate in Hansard click here.
To find out what you can do click here.