Where does the (anti-trafficking government) money go?

17 October 2014

Where does the (anti-trafficking government) money go?

Anti-trafficking research at GCU

Research analysing anti-trafficking government funding in the United Kingdom has found evidence that significantly more could be done to prevent exploitation and forced labour, with many councils and police forces unable to provide information on their financial anti-trafficking allocations and commitments.

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researcher Dr Kiril Sharapov, a Marie Curie Research Fellow currently working at the Central European University’s Centre for Policy Studies in Hungary, suggests despite annual allocated funding towards anti-trafficking initiatives by national governments, international organisations and donor agencies, the impact on the eradication of trafficking remains unclear.

October 18 marks the 8th EU Anti-Trafficking Day. On this occasion, the European Commission is publishing its Mid-term Report on the Implementation of the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016. In the UK, Anti-Slavery Day also takes place on October 18, working to highlight child trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Dr Sharapov says that the UK Government actively promotes trafficking as a problem stemming from crime and illegal immigration. This representation, however, ignores the exploitation of labour by poorly regulated businesses and corporations, as well as the growth of poverty and inequality globally.

The UK government’s Strategy on Human Trafficking, covering the period 2011–2015, and published in July 2011, despite its clear message of impending threat to the UK from traffickers and organised criminals, provides no information as to where the government’s financial anti-trafficking commitments lie. The only time the issue of funding is mentioned is in relation to the annual allocation of £2million per year towards victims’ support and care in England and Wales.

In order to gauge the extent of anti-trafficking activities and of money trails, FOI requests were submitted to the following public authorities: local authorities representing the thirty-largest council populations as of 2010 (out of fifty-five); forty-five UK police forces, and most of the central ministerial departments. The devolution policy in the UK means that a range of powers is transferred from central to regional authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which, together with England, make up the UK.

Out of the thirty local authorities, twenty-seven responded including twelve councils with no allocated funding, anti-trafficking strategies or activities; thirteen councils had no dedicated budgets but considered anti-trafficking activities as integrated/mainstreamed into central budgets. Only two councils provided details of their specific anti-trafficking allocations, with one council establishing a dedicated Crime Reduction Officer whose remit included human trafficking. Another council allocated funds towards awareness-raising activities among the general public, local businesses, local communities and frontline workers.  On rare occasions where councils did recognise trafficking as relevant to their operations, it was interpreted as an issue of safeguarding vulnerable children and adults.

Out of the forty-five UK police forces contacted, thirty-two responded within the legally prescribed time limit. Only two reported having dedicated anti-trafficking funding: Thames Valley Police allocating £25,000 in 2012, and Metropolitan Police allocating about £2.4 million in 2012 and £2.4 million in 2013.

‘Biggest Bang for the Buck’ (or not): Anti-Trafficking government funding in Ukraine and the United Kingdom’ is published in an edition of journal Anti-Trafficking Review dedicated to the topic of anti-trafficking funding.

Dr Sharapov says: “The last decade saw a proliferation of anti-trafficking initiatives at both international and national levels despite the fact that trafficking, overall, remains a poorly researched phenomenon. We, as members of the general public, almost always assume that governments act in our best interests and, also, in the best interests of human trafficking victims.

“However, the way that trafficking is constructed in policies is inherently politicised and influenced not only by governments’ political agendas, but also by other stakeholders – non-governmental organisations, interest groups and often actors whose relation to the issues of labour exploitation stays opaque – businesses and corporations.”


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