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Tackling trafficking – guest post by Mary Honeyball MEP

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Mary Honeyball MEP

Mary Honeyball MEP*
Member of the European Parliament for the Labour Party

Today marks the fifth European Union (EU) anti-trafficking day.

As some of you may know, the abolition of human trafficking is an issue very close to my heart.

As a member of the European Parliament, I have striven to raise awareness of trafficking and to find ways to combat this form of modern day slavery.

It is currently estimated that, globally, 79 per cent of victims are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and prostitution, and the majority of these victims are women and children.

The heartbreaking case of Joy Vincent, investigated by Mark Townsend in this weekend’s Observer, highlights just a small part of a Europe wide phenomenon that needs to be stopped.

Joy’s case mirrors that of many women and girls trafficked in to the UK.  Joy was trafficked from Nigeria to the UK at the age of 14. By the age of 17 she was working in the underground sex industry as a means to survive, with no real means of escaping the situation.

Of course it is important to remember that the problem is not only one of women and girls being trafficked from outside the EU; there is also a high number of women and girls who find themselves victims of trafficking within the EU’s borders, both within and between member states.

Increasing the priority given to the prevention of internal trafficking on the European agenda was one of the many issues I discussed with EU anti-trafficking coordinator Myria Vasilliadou when I met with her last week.

We also discussed the importance of a joint and cohesive action on the part of member states in order to increase conviction rates for this cross-national organised crime.

Ms Vassilliadou is passionate about combating human trafficking in Europe, and in the months since she took up the post has already covered much ground.

I truly hope that her ambitious plans for further EU action to combat this abhorrent practice, including a Commission Communication foreseen for early next year, are given the necessary support across the institutions.

Alongside the appointment of Ms Vassiliadou, another key milestone at the European level in the fight against human trafficking was the adoption of a new EU Directive on the prevention and combating of trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (see link here for more details).

I was involved in this through my work on the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee.

At a more local level, a key concern in my own constituency of London is the potential that an increased number of girls and women will be trafficked into the UK during the Olympics next year.

This pattern has been seen at previous large scale sporting events such as the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Munich, where increased levels of prostitution were accompanied by a higher level of trafficked women and girls.

It is vital that the right measures are put in place now to prevent trafficking and the devastating effect that it has on victims’ lives.

To put these measures in place, resources need to be made available to bodies with the capacity to work together to prevent trafficking, such as the police, the social services and UK Borders Agency.

In this light I am proud to have led a successful campaign in 2009 to save the London Metropolitan Police’s specialist human trafficking unit.

The unit undertakes essential work in the prevention of trafficking in a challenging environment as many victims are not in a position to come forward and report what has happened to them, resulting in a low conviction rate.

Although ensuring sufficient institutional capacity is important in the fight against human trafficking, it is equally important that organisations that provide essential support services to victims of trafficking also have the resources to undertake this vital work.

These are organisations such as the Poppy Project, which provides accommodation and support for women who have been trafficked into prostitution or domestic servitude.

Appallingly, in April 2011, the Poppy project experienced a 95 per cent cut in funding when the government awarded the previous contract to the Salvation Army. The resulting loss of expertise and knowledge in providing support to women in such a vulnerable position is difficult to consider.

All in all, to have a real and lasting impact on trafficking into the future, it is important to ensure that support mechanisms are in place to assist today’s victims and that we continue our concerted effort at the European level to catch the perpetrators of this demeaning and insidious crime.

*Mary Honeyball MEP is a member of the Labour Party and the Socialist and Democrat group of the European Parliament.

Mary has represented her London constituency since 2000 and is the Labour spokesperson on the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) of the European Parliament.

She is also the Group Coordinator of the Parliament’s Culture Committee, which is responsible for legislating on issues surrounding sporting events such as the Olympics.

More news about Mary Honeyball’s activities can be found on her blog: thehoneyballbuzz.com/

  1. The Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking unit will make a monitoring visit to the UK shortly, to follow-up its compliance with the CoE treaty against human trafficking. For more information on this story, please go to http://www.humanrightseurope.org/2011/10/podcast-human-trafficking-in-europe/

  2. vicki wharton says:

    I don’t think the UK takes sex slavery very seriously since it does nothing to tackle demand customer wise and the slavers and customers know this. If they were serious about this like they were with the rioters they would post adverts in all the lads mags saying paying for sex with a person held brought into the country to supply sexual services is rape and will be prosecuted as rape. A recent survey of men who use prostitutes put the number at 60% (if I remember correctly) who suspect the girl they are having sex with is trafficked – that is an appalling statistic and level of collusion by men across the UK, on both sides of the law. A couple of showcase trials would send a powerful message to men that the authorities will not collude in sex slavery any further – but they don’t. I wonder why they don’t …?

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