On a day where there are several appalling linked stories in the press about the horror and misery of true trafficking (here, here and here), I was sorry to read the Home Office attempting to claim false credit for a trafficking criminal conviction.
The press release in question is dated 1 July 2009 and entitled ‘Man jailed for six years for human trafficking’. However, on further reading it transpires that the offence was a ‘facilitation’ offence, probably under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971. It certainly sounds like a conventional smuggling case, not at all a trafficking case. There is a separate specific offence of trafficking, under section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Clamaints etc) Act 2004. As far as I know there has never been a successful conviction for trafficking.
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, to which the UK is now belatedly a signatory, includes a specific definition of trafficking:
“Trafficking in human beings” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
This was not a trafficking case if the body of the press release is to be believed, and it is plain wrong and misleading for the Home Office to be trying to claim credit for a trafficking conviction when in fact there haven’t been any. In addition, the press release damages public understanding by confusing smuggling and trafficking. Smuggling is with consent, trafficking is without – it’s not a difficult conceptual difference.
This post joins another previous one on misleading press releases. Frankly, I’d quite like them to stop the appalling puns as well.