Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Local Government and Government Business
I am pleased to publish the 2013 Annual Report on the Welsh Government Anti Human Trafficking Co-ordinator for Wales.
Wales was the first country in the UK to appoint an Anti Human Trafficking Co-ordinator. The post was created in March 2011 to fulfil our commitment in the Programme for Government. I am proud Wales is leading the way in tackling this heinous crime.
Stephen Chapman, was appointed to the post on November 20th 2012. The report is to inform on the work delivered to date.
Since 2009, Wales, and the UK, has seen a significant rise in the number of potential victims of human trafficking referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) managed by the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which is part of the National Crime Agency (NCA). The UKHTC reports this upward trend has continued throughout 2013, and does not show any signs of changing.
Whilst rising, numbers of NRM referrals remain low, in 2012 there were a total of 1,156 cases across the UK. This included 34 reported cases in Wales, with 10 of these cases being minors. Of these, Poland was the country of origin from where most adult victims came from, with 6 referrals. For minors the country of origin for the most referrals was Vietnam, with 6 referrals.
We recognise there are issues around data collection and believe the current statistics, based on the 2012 UKHTC NRM referrals, are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. We are, therefore, working with partners on building an evidence base on the scale of human trafficking in Wales to enable more informed decisions to be made and to direct future activity.
Even without the full picture, we know human trafficking is regrettably happening here in Wales. In Spring 2013, Gwent Police rescued a 43 year old man from a farm in the Marshfield area of Newport. He had been kept in captivity for 13 years, living in poor conditions and forced to work for no pay. Gwent Police then launched ‘Operation Imperial’ and, as widely reported in the national press, in September 2013 arrests were made and three men were charged with human trafficking offences. A number of other men were rescued.
The success of this operation was due, in no small part, to the multi agency approach taken. I would like to put on record my recognition of the efforts of Gwent Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, other Forces, the UKHTC, the RSPCA and the Red Cross.
Over the last year, we have seen some significant developments and real progress in taking this vital work forward. I have established the Wales Anti Human Trafficking Leadership Group to provide strategic leadership to inform decision making and for co-ordination of activity directed towards tackling human trafficking in Wales. The Leadership Group has a Delivery Plan with Strategic Objectives to provide oversight and direction in how human trafficking is being tackled in Wales.
The AHTC, in his first year of appointment, has developed and strengthened links with a wide range of statutory devolved partners, non-statutory devolved partners and other organisations, including the voluntary sector, to raise awareness and co-ordinate joint activities to tackle human trafficking in Wales.
The progress achieved with our partners in Wales is detailed in the Annual Report including:
- establishing Anti Human Trafficking Fora in Gwent, South Wales and Western Bay;
- establishing the first Regional Anti Human Trafficking Co-ordinator post in North Wales;
- establishing Bawso and New Pathways, both Welsh organisations, to become First Responder Organisations;
- delivering awareness raising sessions to key stakeholders across Wales;
- introducing a training programme for Senior Investigating Officers in our police forces and;
- re-launching the Welsh Government’s Anti Human Trafficking website.
In October, I attended the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group meeting held at 10 Downing Street, chaired by the Prime Minister, who announced his intention to have a Modern Slavery Bill in place by May 2014 to strengthen the UK’s response to human trafficking. This Bill was published on 16th December and I am broadly supportive of what it aims to achieve.
We will continue to work with the UK Government on the introduction of these new measures building on the work we have already achieved in Wales.
I have considered the need for a change in the terminology we use to ensure the work we undertake is fully understood by the public and our partners. I have decided the Anti Human Trafficking Co-ordinator will henceforth be known as the Anti Slavery Co-ordinator, victims of modern slavery will be known as survivors and those who traffic will be referred to, quite simply, as criminals. These terms will become widely accepted and recognised as a result of the forthcoming Modern Slavery Bill and are already being used to some extent by the media. They are more meaningful and give people a clearer understanding of the issue. In particular these terms clearly differentiates between people smuggling and asylum seekers. We know, for example, there is a lack of clarity about people who are trafficked being considered by the public as illegal immigrants, which is not the case, and this change of terminology will clarify for the public for the vulnerability and victimisation of those subjected to modern slavery.
In Wales, we will continue to raise awareness of the harsh and dangerous realities of modern slavery. In February I will be launching a national TV campaign to raise public awareness of this criminal exploitation and its many guises, highlighting how people are forced into prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labour in sweatshops and cannabis farms and even the removal of organs.
We will also continue to seek out and share ‘good practice’ to ensure a consistent level of service is delivered across Wales.
We are fortunate our partners are ready and willing to work with us on tackling this blight on our society. The Welsh Government’s leadership in this has been key. We will continue to provide this direction and support to ensure survivors of modern slavery are given the help they so desperately need and deserve, and criminals engaging in this activity are brought to justice.