UK Liberty

On ID cards and people trafficking

Posted in ID Cards, law and order by ukliberty on January 9, 2007

What can’t ID cards help with?

They seem to be the solution to all our problems, from school bullying to people trafficking:

It is no good for [the Conservative Party] to call for tough action to combat the evils of people trafficking while they oppose the solution: ID cards.

ID cards: ‘the solution’ to people trafficking.

Tackling the evil of people trafficking requires serious action, not vague words. ID cards will help to address this menace; they will boost the fight against illegal immigration and strengthen our borders.

Within a breath, ID cards are downgraded from ‘the solution’ to a ‘help’ and a ‘boost’. Presumably we are intended to find this (and all the ad hominems) credible.

Opposition to ID cards reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the Tory approach: they talk tough but vote soft. How in one breath can you talk of tightening up checks on vulnerable women and children entering the country, yet with the next condemn ID cards, the key measure to protect such people?

Laying it on a bit thick, isn’t he?

But let’s have a look at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate’s Borders, Immigration and Identity Action Plan (768Kb PDF).

Over 30 million foreign nationals crossed our borders in 2005

Are they are all required to enrol on the National Register (the database behind the cards) on entering the UK?


From 2008, we will make biometric ID compulsory for all foreign nationals coming here for work, study, or to stay for longer than six months [originally intended to be three months], unless they are from the EEA

In other words, if a non-EEA (European Economic Area, 30 countries) foreign national applies to stay longer than six months or work in the UK, he must enrol his details and biometrics (for now just his photograph and 10 fingerprints, if he has them) on the Register. No-one else has to: not if you intend to stay for less than six months, or if you don’t intend to work, or if you intend to lie.

Presumably most trafficked people are female. If I understand correctly, most trafficked women are from Eastern Europe (see paper referred to below: Kelly, Regan 2000) – i.e. from countries that are in the EEA. In addition, apparently (see page 25 of the paper) it is rare for trafficked women to arrive via entirely illegal methods.

How many illegally trafficked people are likely to apply for visas, or tell us they are likely to stay for longer than six months? I would guess at ‘none’, because if they did, they wouldn’t be illegal. So, how will they enrol (or be enrolled) on the Register? Again, they aren’t likely to come into contact with it.

So I really don’t understand how the ID card/e-borders system will protect the majority of trafficked people, because they will never come into contact with it.

It is all very well me moaning about the Government’s proposals, but I just don’t understand the logic in them. Is there any logic at all?

What is my solution to trafficking? Well, I know next to nothing about it – I guess I’m just as qualified as Government Ministers.

But the trafficking (defined) section of the Government’s Crime Reduction Toolkit website says,

Off-street prostitution has traditionally been an area of the sex industry that has been subject to minimal monitoring. As such, the risk of detection for traffickers is low. Equally, it is a difficult area to bring prosecutions – victims are wary of providing evidence for fear of reprisals and through fear of the legal system. When prosecutions have been brought it has been difficult to gain sentences with sufficient deterrent to offset the potential gains for traffickers.

I infer that we should improve monitoring and detection, and increase sentences.

The Toolkit now quotes a paper (245Kb PDF) by Liz Kelly and Linda Regan, entitled ‘Stopping Traffic: Exploring the extent of, and responses to, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation in the UK’. The Toolkit claims “there has only been one official published study on trafficking in the UK”, so have a read and you’ll officially know as much as anyone else.

‘Internationally, and the UK is no exception, trafficking people is a less risky activity for criminals than trafficking in drugs. The maximum sentences in most jurisdictions are seldom as long for people as for drug trafficking. The lower potential costs and higher profits, especially where the traffic is for the purpose of prostitution, have acted as powerful incentives to organised crime, smaller networks and ‘‘enterprising’’ individuals.’

I infer we need to somehow increase costs and decrease profits.

A little moan: I do not know why the Crime Reduction website provides just a reference to “Kelly, Regan 2000”. That is what you traditionally do in papers, but not websites, where it is extremely easy to provide hyperlinks. Incidentally, other papers relating to violence against women can be found on the Home Office RDS website.

Back to the Toolkit:

It has also been suggested by enforcement agencies that the UK is a particularly attractive destination for the traffickers due to the fact that there is no identity card system.

(On the website, this last sentence has a much larger font size (“10”) than the rest of the text (“2”). Think they are trying to tell us something?)

There are no references to support this claim. There is no detail about what agencies have claimed this and how they supported their claims. We are supposed to find this credible.

The Kelly and Regan paper is referred to five times in the section of the Toolkit entitled ‘What do we know about trafficking?’. Presumably this means the Government has some faith in it. It has a section on recommendations, but I can find no mention of identity cards anywhere in the paper at all.

On the other hand, Kelly and Regan make some suggestions that seem reasonable to me (and they at least provide supporting references): increase research, increase monitoring, increase sentences, increase support for the victims, improve police training, improve data collection (separate data on ‘illegal immigration’ and ‘trafficking’), change police policies toward ‘off-street locations’ where most trafficked women are likely to be found, re-prioritise trafficking relative to other crimes (i.e. relatively increase resources).

The paper also claims that many women come voluntarily to the UK because they are promised a better life. This suggests to me that trafficking would be reduced if their countries of origin improve.

In short, once again the Identity Card and National Register seems to be a solution looking for a problem.


One Response

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  1. Sex « UK Liberty said, on January 4, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    […] Last time I looked, in January 2007, there seemed to be just one ‘official published study on trafficking in the UK’ – a paper (245Kb PDF) by Liz Kelly and Linda Regan, entitled ‘Stopping Traffic: Exploring the extent of, and responses to, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation in the UK’ – and that seems to be the case still now, as the Government’s Crime Reduction Toolkit hasn’t been updated, which is surprising as the paper dates back to 2000. […]

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