Report: Human trafficking victims increasingly treated as criminal aliens

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, November 28, 2011 13:21 EDT
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Children in front of posters displayed for Justice and Protection against Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People. Photo: AFP.
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The victims of human trafficking have virtually nobody to speak for them, no means of justice, outside of government intervention — but even that is uncertain, according to a new report.

An 18-month study by Scotland’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that more and more, trafficked humans are being treated as criminal aliens by authorities, who see their lack of citizenship paperwork as a breach of law rather than a symptom of a greater problem.

Often times, the report noted, authorities are confronted with claims of trafficking and ignore them. Even when allegations of trafficking are taken seriously, the rights of the victims are often sidelined, the inquiry found.

Comparatively, documented citizens who are raped, kidnapped or forced into slavery receive much greater public support once their ordeal is over.

While the report focuses on Scotland and the United Kingdom, it levels many of the same criticisms at other nations where human trafficking is rife and immigration laws are tight.

“The cultures of the different parts of this world of enforcement are incredibly different,” the study’s author wrote. “We found that people who are serious victims get treated as if they are criminals.”

“What was shocking was the culture of disbelief some victims claimed to have met from immigration officialdom, which informed our belief that there should be an independent system with a raison d’être [reason for existence] to decide whether or not someone has been trafficked,” the study’s executive summary explained.

It recommends that officials adopt uniform standards of what is, and what is not, human trafficking. The study’s authors said that it should be possible to crack down on traffickers even more while still enforcing immigration laws to the letter, but it would require inter-agency cooperation to more aggressively investigate allegations of human trafficking.

Read the full report here (PDF).

(H/T: The Guardian)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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