As regular readers of my blog will be aware, I have written before about the EU’s new human trafficking directive and also ran a campaign against the Metropolitan Police Authorities proposed closure of their specialised unit dealing with this matter. This issue has never seemed to me to be particularly partisan, it being widely accepted that trafficking causes untold misery and ruins the lives of many, especially women and children. So I could not believe it when I heard about the coalition government’s plan to ‘opt-out’ of the new directive specifically designed to help combat trafficking.
For me, and I hope everyone else, the most important aspect of the directive is its focus on protecting the victims of trafficking. Such protection would mean that people who are trafficked into criminal enterprises in the UK, such as the sex trade or cannabis farming, could not be charged over false immigration papers forced on them by the gang responsible for their move.
The new directive, still currently in committee, also looks to create a single EU wide definition of trafficking and allow for the law courts to try people who commit trafficking offences in another EU state. This is crucial to the combating of trafficking since many of the crimes that help sustain the practice, such as document forgery, kidnapping, intimidation and violence will occur in another country before the victim has reached the UK.
The directive will allow for trafficking crimes to be prosecuted in UK courts, thereby helping to stop the industry of trafficking as well as bring criminals to justice. The anti-trafficking measures seem right and proper to me. However, a Home Office statement in early August said that there were already ample measures in place to combat trafficking in the UK. An interesting view since, in June this year, an umbrella group of charities and NGOs released a study saying that the anti-trafficking measures in the UK were woefully inadequate.
It is deeply depressing to think that the Conservatives would make a decision that could have a huge impact on the effectiveness of our police force in combating human trafficking on the basis of the odious and irrational anti-European stance. David Cameron and William Hague have said that they will not cede powers to the EU without a referendum (though they have already put the lie to that particular promise), so I can’t help but feel that the rejection of a powerful and necessary tool in the fight against such an egregious crime is all part of some pathetic political posturing. The idea we would even have to ask the (supposedly) pro-European Clegg to persuade the Tories to think again on this crucial issue is very, very worrying.