Trafficking: 'a modern slave trade', say Tories
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 2:40am GMT 04/01/2007
A major drive against people trafficking was demanded by the Conservatives today.
Mr Davis said the UK should join Europe in fighting trafficking
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, called it ''the modern slave trade” that must be eradicated 200 years after William Wilberforce ended slavery in the British empire.
He called on the Government to drop its opposition to the European convention on trafficking which Tony Blair has so far declined to sign.
The Tories have also been opposed to the convention because it allows victims to stay in the country and could be a ''pull factor” for illegal immigration.
But Mr Davis said there was now an overriding moral imperative that made direct action against trafficking essential. ''This is something the Government should do tomorrow,” he added.
“It has avoided doing this – I don't really understand why. I do not believe that by giving civilised treatment to the victims of this trade – allowing 30 days' reflection whilst they are ready to go and become witnesses – that that will actually be a pull factor. Just the reverse.”
Other measures proposed by the Conservatives include setting up a helpline for victims and increasing the number of safe houses for people rescued from trafficking, especially children. They also want to establish a new border police force to plug Britain's ''porous” frontiers.
“It is now 200 years since William Wilberforce saw the end of the slave trade in the UK,” Mr Davis said.
“It is past time that we brought this evil trade to an end. It is a high priority for a moral reason.” There were an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking in prostitution in the UK during 2003, though some experts put the figure far higher.
The rackets are mainly run by Albanian and Kosovan gangs. However, there have been only 30 convictions for trafficking offences over the past two years.