Unseen victims

At the end of the summer, the UK’s Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC – part of SOCA) published “A Baseline Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2011”. (You can download it here.)  In it, the UKHTC attempts – for the first time – to itemise the extent of human trafficking in the UK, looking at “the number of potential victims, their country or origin, exploitation types, recruitment techniques and transport methods”.  I found it interesting because for a few months now I have been including human trafficking as one of my “growth crimes” (along with, for instance, maritime piracy, and counterfeiting) in training sessions, and a UK MLRO recently asked me not to bother on the basis that “it’s too distant for our staff, not something that would happen here”.

But far from being something distant, it turns out that human trafficking is happening all around us.  As David Dillnutt, head of the UKHTC, says: “Human trafficking is a complex crime and the true scale of it – and the number of victims – is largely hidden… as victims are often kept locked away and unseen by society”.  But the work of the UKHTC is gradually uncovering these unseen victims:

  • in 2011, 2,077 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in the UK
  • 99 of those were UK citizens – 42 of them were female children trafficked into the sex industry
  • the five most common countries of origin for victims were Romania, Slovakia, Nigeria, Poland and the Czech Republic
  • a third of victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, and a fifth for labour exploitation
  • two victims said that they had been trafficked specifically to have their organs harvested.

Sadly the report does not go into the laundering of the proceeds of the trafficking, although I imagine the topic will make an appearance in the next annual report from SOCA.    However, a strong link between trafficking and other financial crime is apparent: “After arriving in the UK… victims are taken to job centres to obtain National Insurance numbers and then taken to banks to open accounts.  All identity documents and bank cards are taken from them and the traffickers then use the identities of the victims, and their children, to claim tax credits, child benefits, to take any salary the victim receives, and to carry out fraud against the banks.”  Would that all of this were a long way distant from our communities.

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2 Responses to Unseen victims

  1. Graham Thomas says:

    Hi Susan

    Thank you for these sobering reminders …. that there are so many ways in which money laundering takes place and affects peoples lives … and that there are very few boundaries which people will not cross in the pursuit of ill gotten gains, no matter what the cost is to their victims. So easily forgotten when a lot of us are carrying out our roles in the comfort of (relatively) plush offices.

    Still, I’ll end on a more positive note as I’m looking forward to enjoying the lovely weather that is forecast for the weekend.

    Best wishes


  2. Hi Graham
    I do worry sometimes that AML can be a bit theoretical, and I like to include information like this in my training to make people angry – it’s much easier to get them to remember to do their AML checks and monitoring if they’re determined not to let criminals get away with it. And, as you say, we’re all so lucky to be dealing with it at such a remove – for many people, it’s a nasty reality rather than a procedural theory.
    Enjoy that sunshine!
    Best wishes from Susan

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