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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Putting a Stop to Human Trafficking

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In the Spring issue of the Fawcett Society magazine, Stopgap, Meg had the following article.

 

Trafficking women and girls for sexual exploitation is an appalling crime. 2007 will be the bi-centenary of the ending of the slave trade. Trafficked women and girls are kept in conditions akin to slavery, being cruelly treated by the gangs bringing them into the country.

 

The Government has a multi-faceted approach to this crime, encompassing legislation, enforcement, international co-operation and support for victims. I work with Home Office Ministers in the Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking. We provide the focus to ensure that when bringing criminals to justice we also provide support sensitive to the complex needs of the victims. We will be publishing our ‘UK Action Plan on Trafficking’ later this year.

 

Since 2003 we have funded the POPPY scheme which runs a highly-regarded shelter and support scheme for women trafficked into prostitution. They have helped over 100 women recover from their ordeal and prepare to return safely to their communities. The POPPY scheme is important for the women, and provides a protective and supportive environment whilst they come to terms with what has happened.  

 

We have recently entered into a two-year, £2.4 million funding agreement with POPPY to continue this provision and introduce the first national victim outreach service. Also there will be ten regional “step-down” places to help women live semi-independently, and a resource pack for victims, service providers and law enforcement staff.

 

Trafficked women are not just found in London. Wherever there is prostitution there will be trafficked women. We are tackling demand as well. Our prostitution strategy, published in January, challenges stereotypical views of prostitution and makes clear that the law will be enforced against anyone committing sexual crimes against women involved in prostitution. Such women are especially vulnerable given the risky situations inherent in their daily lives and the threat is much worse for trafficked women.

 

We have already introduced legislation to comprehensively criminalise trafficking through the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This introduced wide-ranging offences covering trafficking into, out of or within the UK for any form of sexual abuse, with a maximum penalty of fourteen years.

 

In February 2006, we launched Operation Pentameter, a multi-agency national initiative aimed at tackling trafficking for sexual exploitation. This addressed prevention, demand reduction, disruption, investigation and prosecution of traffickers and support for victims. Then in April we established the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), bringing together the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, parts of HM Customs and Revenue and the Immigration Service. SOCA is a powerful law enforcement body and people-trafficking is one of its top priorities.

 

Our most recent initiative is the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) launched this October. Based in Sheffield, the UKHTC is the first of its kind in Europe and will ensure that enforcement activity on trafficking is mainstreamed into core police business.

 

But tackling human trafficking is not just for Government; communities need to understand the issues and work on the problem. The best way of moving forward is together, bringing different perspectives to bear on the difficult issues involved.

By working together we can ensure effective action brings the same result today that the anti-slavery campaign achieved in the past.

 

Meg Munn


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