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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Impaired visibility: transparency in policymaking

Transparency and accountability are central to building confidence in the rule of law.  With crimes such as human trafficking, these principles serve several purposes: to emphasise the seriousness with which government takes this issue, to act as a deterrent and to facilitate engagement with citizens and civil society.  Developing and sustaining transparency and accountability is good practice for a democratic society.  In the UK, this has manifested in the televising of Parliamentary sessions; the powers of Parliamentary Committees to hold inquiries into legislation, policy development and other areas of national importance and hold Ministers (among others) to account; the development of public consultations on legislation and policy proposals and, in 2000, the Freedom of Information Act (FoI), which was supposed to open public authorities to scrutiny by ordinary citizens.  While the implementation of the Act has not always been a smooth process, the ability to hold the government to account via FOI requests has been broadly positive.  Indeed the Government claims it is:

committed to increasing transparency across Whitehall and local authorities in order to make data more readily available to the citizen and allow them to hold service providers to account.  Not only will transparency allow people to see where their money goes and what it delivers … [it] will put the voluntary sector and small business in a much stronger position to pitch for contracts and bring new ideas and solutions to the table. (more…)

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Infantalising gender in anti-human trafficking policy: demand change

This week, we contributed to The Migrationist’s blog, in recognition of EU/UK Human Trafficking Day.

Included within the European Union Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016, announced in June of this year, are five priority areas, the second of which is: prevention of human trafficking including the reduction of demand. To its credit, the strategy attempts to include all forms of trafficking. In an effort to target “consumers and users of services, corporate social responsibility, codes of conduct, business and human rights and initiatives aimed at eliminating human trafficking from the supply chains of businesses,” it goes beyond the sex industry to include agriculture, construction and tourism.

Noticeably, several statements released by NGOs accompanying the announcement of this strategy were keen to emphasize the importance of undertaking a gender perspective by policymakers in future strategy initiatives. For instance, Equality Now “urges a strong focus on addressing the demand for trafficking which would also send a powerful message that the poor and disadvantaged are not for the exploitation of those with greater means.” While the European Women’s Lobby “has long maintained that the only effective way to counter human trafficking is to address its roots in gender inequalities, notably demand for prostitution”. Even the celebratory film festival scheduled for the EU Anti-Trafficking Day unabashedly acknowledges the focus on sex trafficking. So much for a holistic perspective on anti-trafficking initiatives. (more…)

Submission to the consultation on proposed changes in the law to tackle human trafficking (Northern Ireland)

This week, TTRP made a submission to Lord Morrow’s consultation on his private Bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly on human trafficking.

1.            Introduction

1.1          The Trafficking Research Project (TTRP) welcome the opportunity to make a submission to the consultation on proposed changes in the law to tackle human trafficking.  We also welcome the positive motivation behind this Bill and the commitment to improving Northern Ireland’s response to the crime of human trafficking.  Equally important is the engagement with the European Directive on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims, with which this Bill seeks to comply with more robustly. (more…)

Marginalized intersections: the LBGT community and human trafficking

When it comes to creating and politically capitalizing on a narrative constructed around societies’ most marginalized, the field of human trafficking has proven to be a ripe space in which to showcase the “plight” of the most aggrieved. However, in perpetuating a narrow shadow of victimhood, gaps remain in policy and service provision – not to mention research – in the intersections between various potentially underserved groups affected by labor exploitation. In this regard, we are left wondering about the imprint of noticeable silence on the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans) community.

Little information is available pertaining to either policies or service provision to assist LGBT trafficked persons, globally or locally. Research in related areas does exist on the intersections between the LGBT communities regarding their status as: migrants, sex workers, even asylum seekers; but the dearth of research regarding the specific relationship between trafficking (or even migrant labor exploitation) and LGBT community speaks volumes. The discourse at large appears to be non-existent from both academia and NGOs. (more…)

Everything for a pound: Article 4 and forced labour

On 6 August 2012, Cat Reilly lost her challenge to the Work Academy Scheme, an initiative by the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK, which required those claiming Job Seekers Allowance (an unemployment benefit) to work, unpaid, for participating companies – in this case, a discount store.  The judge found that mistakes had been made in notifying Reilly about the requirements of the Work Academy Scheme in such a way that she did not appreciate the scheme (and working for Poundland) was optional.  While the case was emblematic of the debate in the UK about the breadth of state support for the unemployed, what made this case interesting for our purposes was the appellant’s claim that the scheme violated her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), namely Article 4, the prohibition of slavery and forced labour. (more…)

Singapore: Statement on the Implementation of the National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons

The Trafficking Research Project monitors the development of anti-trafficking initiatives by the Singapore Government. We made several submissions to Government and facilitated the NGO Forum on Human Trafficking. We reiterate our commendation of the Government’s initial engagement with civil society and emphasis on partnership as a cornerstone of the National Plan of Action against Human Trafficking (NPA), particularly during the consultation period in March 2012.

However, we are concerned about the noticeable silence regarding the implementation of the NPA, especially as we are now over halfway through the first projected year of action. This silence does not seem consistent with the previous commitment to transparency taken by Government on this issue and does little to support the idea that Singapore is serious about addressing human trafficking.

Specifically, we are not aware of any action being undertaken regarding the following 2012 deliverables outlined in the NPA:

• Inaugural Self-Assessment report and funding needs assessment
• Definition of TIP offences, training program, public education and outreach
• Development of case referral procedures and training to operationalize them
• Stronger TIP investigation and prosecution processes
• Procedures to identify victims
• Enhancing the victim care system

These elements form a solid foundation for anti-human trafficking activity in Singapore. While we hope the Government is enacting crucial changes, there is a lack of visible information indicating action. Our impression of the approach taken by the Singapore Government was that the NPA itself functioned as a deterrent – showing the world that human trafficking would not be tolerated.

Openness about the process by which the NPA is developed and implemented is important in upholding the principles of transparency and accountability. Moreover, the extensive consultation process and the accompanying engagement with civil society led to the raised assurance that civil society expertise on this issue would have a role to play. If the Government is committed to developing a holistic response to this issue, the role of its partners in this process is vital. We have advocated that the Taskforce consider formalizing its relationship with civil society organizations as we believe this approach will cement the Government’s commitment to partnership. Such an approach will also enhance Government’s previously stated objectives in developing a robust response to human trafficking.

Therefore, we underscore the importance of formalized, regular engagement with the Taskforce to develop and implement the details of the high‐level strategy set out in the NPA in a transparent and collaborative manner.