Yvette Cooper talks tough on child trafficking and illegal immigration

September 12, 2013 3:53 pm

Yvette Cooper MP says the government are not doing enough to stop child trafficking. The Shadow Home Secretary’s comments came after a report published today showed that 2,000 trafficking victims, including 500 trafficked children, were found in the UK last year. The Children’s Society report  says the “true number of children trafficked is likely to be much higher,” and a report from the Sunday Times recently highlighted how easily child trafficking victims fall through the net.

Yvette Cooper says these latest statistics should ring alarm bells in the Home Office:

 “65% of trafficking victims last year were not recorded on the national system to increase their protection. Almost two thirds of rescued children go missing again. Put into care, they simply disappear. Abused already, they are then let down by a system supposed to keep them safe. The EU directive on human trafficking introduces the concept of independent “guardians” for trafficked children to help protect them.  But so far the Home Secretary has refused to implement them.”

Writing in the Guardian, Yvette Cooper has said she welcomes Theresa May’s modern slavery bill, which ‘should have strong cross-party support’. But the Shadow Home Secretary argues that the Government needs to do much more to stop child trafficking:

“Trafficking isn’t only a disgusting crime. It’s an evil trade exploiting a weak system. We must make sure this government does everything possible to stamp it out.”

Refugee charities are pleased that Yvette is supporting the Government’s modern slavery bill. They say that Yvette’s pressure on the Home Secretary could help bring about positive changes to the way human trafficking victims are treated in Britain. Sophie Radice, from Women for Refugee Women, says: “WFRW hopes the modern slavery bill will help change attitudes towards trafficking victims and apply a survivor-centred human rights based approach to dealing with trafficking victims. At the moment the UK Border Agency seems unable to understand what those who’ve suffered trafficking have experienced.”

Yvette Cooper’s comments are part of a broader move to toughen Labour’s stance on illegal immigration. Last week she tabled an Urgent Question at PMQs to ask Theresa May why Border Force staff weren’t doing more to stop illegal immigrants entering the UK.

Labour’s tough stance on illegal immigration is likely to play well to the electorate. However, Yvette’s strong talk worries some on the Left, who fear that cracking down on illegal immigration could cause the public to react negatively to all immigrants, including trafficked children and refugees. The Children’s Society report highlights this concern: “young people [who were trafficked] reported that, despite their vulnerability, they had often been treated with suspicion and prejudice, as so-called ‘illegal immigrants’ rather than children in need or victims of trafficking.” Sophie Radice from Women for Refugee Women, confirms this: “The UKBA’s insensitive approach results in trafficked victims being treated like criminals and put in detention centres like Yarl’s Wood.”

Sources close to Yvette say she wasn’t trying to stoke up the immigration debate, but to call for a more healthy, systematic approach to entry at the border. A senior Labour source said: “If you do more to make sure that illegal immigration is being tackled then that allows you far more space to actually be fairer with those seeking asylum and to get public confidence in the system. Yvette has talked about that a lot in her speeches.”

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