UWE leads human rights agenda in Bristol

Issue date: 18 May 2009

University of the West of England Trafficking for forced labour
What can Bristol do about it?
Pierian Centre Bristol, 19 May 2009

To what extent does human trafficking for labour happen in the city of Bristol? What defines human trafficking and what can be done to prevent it happening and to offer support to exploited people?

Bristol was the first city in the UK to sign up to the European Convention against Trafficking which came into force on the 1 April of this year. With the support of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and Bristol City Council, the Human Rights Unit at the University of the West of England is to lead policy development and deliver the first of a series of training events to help tackle what is a growing concern. 'Trafficking for forced Labour, What Bristol can do about it?' is the pilot meeting that will be held at the Pierian Centre on 19 May 2009.

Human Rights researcher Dr Christien van den Anker from UWE has convened a panel of European experts from a multinational collaborative research project on human trafficking supported by the ESF, in order to illustrate projects being carried out in other European countries to help trafficked people.

'Trafficking for forced labour, what can Bristol do about it?' presents an opportunity for social workers, police, housing, counselling, health and safety and careers professionals and members of voluntary and NGO groups to learn about the many guises that human trafficking takes and to discuss ways that it can be tackled so that 'trafficked' people can gain access to a support coalition.

Dr van den Anker explains, “UWE Human Rights unit has organised a series of public events on trafficking over the years. This will be the first training event aimed at developing co-ordinated policy-responses in Bristol. The event has raised the interest of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Trafficking who will be looking to Bristol's lead to inform national policy.

Human trafficking frequently involves people who are trapped into forced labour arrangements who cannot go to the authorities because they risk detention or deportation, as they will be dealt with as migrants here without permission to work. What is often overlooked is that trafficked people have often faced horrendous circumstances and should be assisted from a human rights perspective.

“We have a responsibility of care towards all people in Bristol and we hope the event will help to create safe havens for those whose rights are being violated. The best way to help is by creating multi-agency support where all those working in this very muddy arena have a reasonable understanding of the issues involved.”

This first event will include presentations from speakers from Moldova, the Czech Republic and Ireland who will share experience from their work in generating responses to trafficking for forced labour. The event will be opened by Graham Sims, Bristol City Council Director of Neighbourhoods.

Some effort will be made to define the wider context of human trafficking for labour and the implementation of the Palermo Protocol and the European Convention will also be discussed.

Christien explains, “The Palermo protocol is the most cited rationale for dealing with Trafficking. In December 2000 over 80 countries signed the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children. The Trafficking Protocol recognises the need for a combined approach that integrates effective prevention of trafficking with the prosecution of traffickers and the protection of human rights and assistance to victims of trafficking. I think that the Protocol provides a good basis for developing an insight into what trafficking actually is, but it is less helpful in creating victim protection or long-term prevention. The European Convention moves beyond the Protocol yet training efforts need to go further as the relevant law enforcement agencies and social services do not yet act accordingly. We will discuss the implications of these international law obligations in the context of the trafficking situation in Bristol.

“I'm looking forward to working with a range of people from a cross-section of services in the city and feel confident that this meeting will be instrumental in formulating significant plans towards offering an integrated service to the hidden oppressed.”


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