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Sex Laws Info

European Convention Against Trafficking - ECAT


The UK has enacted laws to prosecute traffickers and to criminalise all forms of trafficking, in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Immigration and Asylum Act 2004. But there remains the question of what do do regarding the victims of trafficking.

There is mounting concern that any victims are removed from the UK as illegal entrants without any assessment of what risk they may return to (and without any assurance that their traffickers will necessarily be arrested and convicted).

The European Convention Against Trafficking was drawn up by the 46-member Council of Europe based in Strasbourg. It guarantees victims of trafficking the following rights:

A breathing period (or reflection period) of at least 30 days during which they can receive support to aid their recovery, including safe housing and emergency medical support

Temporary residence permits for trafficked people who may be in danger if they return to their country, and/or if it is necessary to assist criminal proceedings

The Government signed up to this Convention in March 2007 and it was fully ratified on December 18, 2008.

The ratification of the convention means the UK now formally becomes part of a Europe-wide agreement about setting minimum standards for protecting and supporting trafficking victims.

Key benefits of ratifying the convention include:

(1) a new National Referral Mechanism, providing a nationally agreed process to help frontline staff identify victims of trafficking and offer them support;

(2) strengthened arrangements for looking after victims, including a 45 day reflection and recovery period and the possibility of a one-year residence permit for victims; and

(3) better support for victims in giving information to police, which it is hoped will help the authorities bring those who exploit them to justice.