South East Euro MP Catherine Bearder has welcomed some positive steps in Europe's fight against people trafficking, but is calling for more real action.
This week representatives from European governments paved the way for EU wide minimum rules on the definition of criminal offences and on punishment for criminals trafficking in human beings. Though the UK was not involved in these negotiations it does have the opportunity to opt in to protect victims in the UK.
Catherine Bearder, also a local anti-trafficking campaigner, said:
"I'm very pleased that today on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women we have made some important steps forward in the fight against people trafficking in Europe."
"Women and children are the main victims of human trafficking. Kidnapped or lured by false promises of better jobs and lives in a different country, they often end up working under terrible conditions in sweatshops, farms, private homes or the sex trade."
"Progress is being made at the European level but the UK must sign up to protect victims here."
"People traffickers have no respect for borders so governments must act together to stop this terrible crime."
"I hope the UK government will announce its intention very soon to opt in to the EU anti-trafficking directive. This reinforced EU law will strengthen our own anti-trafficking legislation and good practice, help to combat modern-day slavery across Europe and protect some of the most vulnerable women."
1. The agreement made by the Permanent Representatives Committee of the Council of Ministers was previously negotiated with the European Parliament. If the Parliament confirms its agreement on the text as it now stands at its December plenary session, the Council will swiftly give its green light to the text, resulting in a first reading agreement. Member states will then have to comply with the new rules within two years.
2. The UN General Assembly designated 25th November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and invited governments, international organisations and NGOs to organise activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem on that day.
3. The UK only participates in EU Justice & Home Affairs legislation when it chooses to, and there are two opportunities for the UK to opt in on any measure. The UK government announced in June that it would not opt in to the new EU anti-trafficking law at the beginning of negotiations, but would instead wait to see how the final text negotiated between MEPs and the other EU governments turns out before deciding whether to participate in the final version.
4. The coalition agreement says: 'We will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country's security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system.'