The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Naomi Buhmann for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:
In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, thousands of trafficked adolescents are enslaved by criminal gangs on the county lines for drug distribution. The British government should encourage the police to prioritise cases of underage drug couriers and ensure they are covered by the National Referral Mechanism for trafficked people, and that they use more telecommunication restriction orders through the County Lines Taskforce.
Girls acting as couriers on the County Lines are particularly vulnerable. We urge support services to ensure as many victims as possible are introduced to the National Referral Mechanism.
Prostitutes are another vulnerable group about whom we are increasingly concerned since the advent of Covid-19 in the UK. As many of them continue to work, their safety is more at risk. Others are being abandoned by their traffickers and are in need of shelter.
There is insufficient support for those forced into prostitution. Emergency accommodation services do not know where the victims are located. The lack of funding for those that offer emergency accommodation to help prostitutes in need is an acute problem. Her Majesty’s Government has not yet provided sufficient help to support these services.
Since Covid-19, trafficking is more underground and new strategies are needed empowering institutions and structures that can strengthen exit pathways and break the cycle of exploitation.
We wish to see more funding for anti-trafficking support services and charities so they can adapt to new circumstances swiftly.
In order to identify more victims, help hotlines should be better staffed and widely promoted. They need to connect closely with the National Referral Mechanism and with law enforcement officers so all can remain alert in regard to the trafficking issue and the related problem of online sexual exploitation and grooming.