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Before the Harm is Done: Examining the UK’s response to the prevention of trafficking

The purpose of the research carried out for this report was to review action taken in the UK since 2012, relating to the prevention of human trafficking, in order to assess the extent to which it contributes to the UK’s implementation of the 2005 Council of Europe Trafficking Convention1 and the EU Trafficking Directive requirements. The research was undertaken through a combination of desk research, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and stakeholder interviews.

The research found positive examples of localised good practice and outstanding work by some bodies, which have shown a deep understanding of trafficking. Despite significant development in the UK’s efforts to tackle this issue, however, the examples of good practice do not represent the overall situation. We found that positive efforts are weakened by lack of evaluation and undermined by the strong tendency to view the anti-trafficking response through a criminal justice lens.

Overall, the report concludes that:

  • The UK continues to lack an overall strategy to prevent trafficking in adults and children;
  • This leads to an inconsistent and fragmented approach to the prevention of trafficking;
  • The UK’s lack of a strategic response means that prevention is often seen through the prism and policies of immigration and crime, hindering effective preventative action;
  • The result of this approach and the wider policies of austerity, a hostile immigration environment and the threats posed by Brexit, is that the vulnerability of adults and children to exploitation is not reduced and the UK risks contravening its positive obligation to prevent trafficking.