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Written Statement - Anti-Slavery Day

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Carl Sargeant, Minister for Social Justice and Local Government and Gwenda Thomas , Deputy Minister for Social Services

To recognise the significance of the UK’s first Anti Slavery Day today , it is important to reflect on the action that the Welsh Assembly Government has been taking, and continues to take, to ensure that Wales will not tolerate human trafficking in any form.

 

It is shocking to think that people are being trafficked in Wales. These men, women and children are being exploited in a most profound and heinous fashion. This is not just an issue of trafficking across international borders and the significance of internal trafficking is one that we are beginning to recognise, with women and children being trafficked, particularly for sexual exploitation. This is a hidden crime, and its scale remains somewhat unknown. However, recent police intelligence indicates that it is on the increase and that human trafficking is now the third most lucrative market in the UK for organised criminals, after drugs and firearms.

 

Anti Slavery Day reminds us all of the need to take this heinous crime seriously here in Wales.  As a society we need to be alert to the fact that this is happening on our streets and in our neighbourhoods, and to question what we see. Anti Slavery Day is an opportune moment to reflect on key actions already taken by the Welsh Assembly Government to help identify and deal with the trafficking of men, women and children in Wales.

 

Recent – and important – publications by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and Joyce Watson AM have helped us further understand the extent of the problem and have also helped raise awareness of the existence of trafficking and dispel the ‘culture of disbelief’ that has previously existed. We welcome these reports.

 

Following the publication of the Children’s Commissioner’s report on child trafficking - Bordering on Concern - in March 2009 we took steps to ensure that the action taken to respond was collaborative and involved all the relevant agencies working to prevent and safeguard child victims of trafficking.

 

Child trafficking is a particularly atrocious crime and we need to recognise that it is happening. Until we do we will have little hope of safeguarding and protecting these vulnerable children. As far as we know from the information available, the numbers are not large – but behind each of the statistics is an unimaginable story of abuse, maltreatment and misery.

 

A multi agency group was established to consider how national and strategic action might help the relevant agencies identify and protect the child victims of trafficking. An audit of trafficking activity by social service departments and Local Safeguarding Children Boards has been undertaken to help inform future work plans and to identify where weaknesses might lie. To further strengthen the protection of trafficked children the All Wales Child Protection Procedures Group has undertaken to produce an all Wales child trafficking protocol which will form part of the national child protection procedures.  

 

To mark the first UK Anti-Slavery Day we have launched today an on-line child trafficking training resource to help raise awareness of child trafficking and to assist practitioners in identifying and safeguarding  children who might have been trafficked. This is the first resource produced for a dedicated Welsh audience and reflecting the Welsh policy context. 

 

Christine Beddoe, the Director of ECPAT UK, a leading children’s rights organisation that campaigns against the commercial exploitation of children in the UK and internationally, has welcomed this development and supports the efforts of the Assembly Government to help raise awareness of child trafficking and hopes that the e-learning training course will be used by professionals across Wales who may encounter children who have been trafficked.

We announced in September the creation of Wales’ first anti human trafficking co-ordinator. This appointment will ensure that over the next 12 months we are able to collect concrete evidence of the on going scale of need in Wales and provide relevant services for those already affected. It will ensure the continuation of good practice already achieved in tackling violence against vulnerable groups. 

That followed the launch in March this year of our Right to be Safe campaign which outlined the commitment to support victims of human trafficking.

 

As part of our commitment to support the victims of human trafficking, we are grant funding the Black Association of Women Step Out to establish a pilot trafficking project in north Wales. The project will provide appropriate support, accommodation and financial assistance to victims by acting as advocates for them, provide information and assist in arranging voluntary returns to countries of origin.

 

Trafficking takes place for a number of reasons, but sexual exploitation is recognised as being a key feature. We have consulted on guidance on safeguarding children and young people who may be subject to sexual exploitation, and intend to issue final statutory guidance at the end of the year – supported by a programme of training to ensure that it can be implemented effectively within key agencies. 

 

We welcome the announcement by the UK Government on 14 October that it will be developing a new strategy to combat trafficking. The Assembly Government will keep in close touch with that work to ensure that any new developments addresses and meet the needs of the citizens of Wales.

 

We will continue to meet head on the dangers posed to our society by people who seek to make gain out of trafficking and in the sale of the misery of others and will not tolerate their place in Wales.