Britain opts in to EU rules on human trafficking

22nd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain said Tuesday it would opt in a European Union directive on human trafficking, days after the country saw its first case of "modern-day slavery" involving a woman trafficked from Tanzania.

The government had been waiting to see the final draft of the directive before signing up, and one day after the rules came into effect, Home Office Minister Damian Green said London would play its part.

"Opting in would send a powerful message to traffickers that Britain is not a soft touch and that we remain world leaders in fighting this terrible crime," Green said in a statement.

Lawmakers will now be consulted on the decision and the government will publish a strategy on human trafficking in the coming months, he said, adding that the issue was a "priority".

More than 700 suspected cases of human trafficking were referred to the UK Human Trafficking Centre, a multi-agency body, in the year to March 2010.

Three-quarters of victims were women and almost half the cases involved sexual exploitation. The largest number, 123, came from Nigeria.

Last week Saaeda Khan, 68, was found guilty of trafficking Mwanahanisi Mruke into Britain from Tanzania for exploitation, after prosecutors said she had kept the woman in conditions akin to "modern-day slavery".

Khan was ordered to pay 49-year-old Mruke £25,000 ($40,000, 28,750 euros) but was spared jail because of her own ill health and the fact she had two adult disabled children, the judge said.

The new EU rules will broaden out the definition of the crime -- from sexual exploitation and slave labour to forced begging and removal of organs -- which is estimated to rake in 2.5 billion euros a year, and set harsher penalties.

© 2011 AFP

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