The UK has played a leading role in the international fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, but there is much work still to do if we are to help safeguard all those at risk of exploitation.
Human trafficking is one of the great scourges of our generation. Across the world, 66,520 people were identified as victims of human trafficking in 2016—a 40% increase from 2012. Even this number may represent less than 1% of the real scale of the problem. Trafficking networks can often span several continents as victims are transported from one country to another. Consequently, identifying and assisting victims is challenging; all too often, someone who starts their journey as a migrant will end up being exploited because of their vulnerability, and become a victim of human trafficking.
The experiences of victims are desperate—stripped of agency, power and dignity, often in an unfamiliar country, with little way out. This issue disproportionately affects women and girls; of all the victims of human trafficking in Europe, 70% are women and 11% are girls. Many of these women will be victims of sexual exploitation, which makes up 76% of all human trafficking cases in the EU.
As our understanding of the scale of this challenge improves, so must our response. It is essential that the UK continues to play a leading role in multinational efforts to combat this scourge, by strengthening coordination between partner countries. Improving information-sharing and other cooperation is an indispensable component of this. But above all, the UK must find new ways to improve the support offered to the increasing number of victims.
You can watch Philippa’s speech in full by clicking on the video link above.