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November 18, 2016

Great Britain Ramps up Anti-Slavery Efforts

The United Kingdom is taking a hard look at its efforts to combat modern slavery. Last month the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, released his first report on United Kingdom’s failure to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. The report showed that while police received 3,146 allegations of trafficking last year, only 884 were recorded as crimes.

This report is part of a revitalized effort to address human trafficking, one of the fastest growing and most lucrative criminal enterprises. British Prime Minister Theresa May recently called for a government crackdown on the problem.

In some ways the United Kingdom is far surpassing the United States in funding anti-trafficking programs. Last year it passed the Modern Slavery Act, a bill that improved law enforcement and ensured harsher punishments for modern slavery crimes. Now Britain is focusing on key factors such as improved legislation and global coordination.

To improve these systems, Britain will invest 33.5 million pounds of its foreign aid budget to help combat trafficking. Of that money, 11 million pounds will be spent in high risk countries, namely Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania, Poland and Albania—slavery routes from which victims are often brought to the country.

An additional three million pounds will be dedicated to the Child Trafficking Protection Fund, used to protect children both internationally and domestically. These funds will be allocated to organizations who develop programs to improve law enforcement and legislation. The goal is to create greater global coordination, reducing the exploitation of vulnerable populations, and improving the international response to modern slavery.

The U.K. government is particularly focused on creating coordination between countries’ law enforcement agencies, a method the United States has also used successfully to combat trafficking. Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, recently allocated 8.5 million pounds to improve coordinated systems to dismantle trafficking rings. To promote interagency coordination in the United Kingdom and overseas, this money will help add additional analysts, specialists, and investigators aiding police with intelligence work and investigations.

One of the major hindrances to prosecuting traffickers is a lack of resources for investigation. The new U.K. programs will help bridge that gap, increasing the amount of investigations launched and hopefully protecting the most easily exploited populations from becoming victims.

New investments, the Modern Slavery Task Force, and increased attention on human trafficking from the prime minister and government will strengthen U.K. intelligence and law enforcement programs, helping them to ramp up efforts to tackle this global crime. While the U.S. government has taken steps to combat trafficking, it could take a page out of Britain’s book.

To continue to lead the global fight against human trafficking, the U.S. government should increase funding to the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, facilitate and expand collaborative efforts between law enforcement and service providers at both the federal and local level, and ensure that victim services have the resources they need to help survivors recover. In doing this, the United States would see greater success in making human trafficking riskier for those who perpetrate it and ultimately reduce the number of people enslaved.