Four men arrested over Bedfordshire ‘slaves’

(c) AndrewHA

Katy Owen

The latest case of human trafficking to hit the headlines highlights the complexities of trafficking and slavery in this country. It also demonstrates how the government’s new strategy against human trafficking is far off the mark of what is needed to tackle the issue.

The charity Stop the Traffik defines trafficking as the act of being deceived or taken against your will and transported into slavery for any kind of exploitation. Importantly, it says, trafficking can be across borders or within a particular country.

This is the primary problem with the government’s strategy whose focus is border controls and trafficking as primarily an immigration issue. Trafficking occurs within countries and it occurs within Britain. In the recent case of slavery in Bedfordshire it seems that most of the slaves were from either Eastern European or English backgrounds. Couple this with the report that rough sleepers are being sold as slaves to gangs and it seems there is a real and serious problem of trafficking the most vulnerable in our society.

The government’s strategy has been criticised by leading charities such as Stop the Traffik and Anti-Slavery International. By focusing on border controls the government’s strategy not only ignores the fact that trafficking occurs within the UK it also risks demonising the victims of trafficking. By couching it in terms of migration rather than human rights victims will feel discouraged from coming forward for fear of prosecution or being returned to countries where they are at risk of further harm.

The way to solve the problem of human trafficking is through communities. This means the government equipping local police forces, social workers and civilians with the capacity to investigate and counter trafficking on the one hand, and the knowledge and willing to prevent it on the other.

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