An Update of Our Progress

Human trafficking (also known as ‘modern slavery’) is one of the most profitable types of crime in the world, with an annual trade value of around $32 billion. There are estimated to be over 30,000,000 trafficking victims (slaves) globally and this figure continues to rise. Unfortunately, a large proportion of trafficking is done, often unwittingly, through hospitality and tourism businesses which, by their nature, facilitate the movement and accommodation of traffickers and their victims. There is also significant evidence that hospitality businesses are used for both sexual and labour exploitation of trafficking victims.
The Combat THB (trafficking human beings) project is being undertaken by a consortium of researchers from the University of West London, Oxford Brookes University, the Lapland University of Applied Sciences and the Ratiu Foundation for Democracy. Funded by the EC Directorate of Home Affairs, the project aims to develop a comprehensive preventative and remedial training toolkit for all levels of staff in the hospitality and tourism industries. To achieve this aim, the project examines trafficking from an operations (business) perspective, a law enforcement perspective and a victim’ s perspective.
We are pleased to report that we have completed the data collection for Stage 1 of the project. In this stage, we sought to identify the vulnerabilities to THB and best practice anti-THB policies and activities within hospitality and tourism through a series of research interviews with NGOs, hospitality company executives and law enforcement agencies. Interviews, conducted in the UK, Romania and Finland are now being used to build THB case studies.
We are also pleased to announce that we have begun collecting data for Stage 2 of the project. In this second stage, we are conducting surveys within hotels in order to identify critical control points at each stage of the trafficked victim’s ‘journey’ and identify barriers that can be raised to deter THB within a hotel. We would like to thank the national and international hotel chains who have agreed to participate in the study and the following organisations for their help in getting sufficient surveys completed:
• Institute of Hospitality
• People 1st
If you would like your company to participate in this worthwhile project then please contact Professor Alexandros Paraskevas on aparaskevas@uwl.ac.uk

For further details about the project and full European project team please visit: http://www.brookes.ac.uk/microsites/combat-human-trafficking/%5D

Or tweet your interest in this project visit:https://twitter.com/CombatTHB

This blog reflects only the author’s views and not those of the European Commission. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of information contained in this blog.

Modern Slavery and the Hospitality Sector: How to protect your business against human trafficking, forced labour and labour exploitation

Exploitation and forced labour are widespread in global supply chains. The reality of this, and how the hospitality sector might deal with it, is the subject of a series of seminars run by the Centre for the Study of International Slavery (https://www.liv.ac.uk/csis/people/). This is collaboration between the International Slavery Museum and the University of Liverpool and the first event was held at the iconic Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building in Liverpool on 1st June 2015.

Fran Hughes of the International Tourism Partnership, one of three presenters, explained that NGOs such as ECPAT and Unseen had been key in raising awareness of human trafficking within the sector. These organisations had identified ways it might affect the industry. Examples highlighted were the risks associated with using employment agencies and high staff turnover and need for seasonal workers which can all increase the risk of labour exploitation. Some organisations are fearful of identifying themselves if they do discover exploitation in their workforce. A function of ITP, however, is to provide a confidential forum for the sector to address such issues. Hughes stressed the importance of organisations staying informed about the risks of trafficking, identifying areas of potential risk in their own organisations, and developing a statement and policies about their approach to dealing with this. Good practice examples included organisations which provide education and training to former victims of trafficking, to reduce their vulnerability.

Matt Crossman of Rathbones Greenbank Investments spoke next and stressed the importance of transparency in supply chains. The business case for addressing this issue is strong as illicit trade, which includes trafficking and forced labour, costs the global economy $150bn per annum. It is crucial that organisations engage with their supply chains proactively, rather than wait for the potential fallout which may occur if human rights abuses are uncovered. The crisis which ensues from any revelations of this kind does not provide a good basis for making policy. Instead, it’s best to have a human rights policy in place, showing that your organisation has set itself related goals and that these are monitored and reported on.

Dr Alex Balch of University of Liverpool presented the final session, discussing the UK Hotels Policy Guide: How to protect your business against human trafficking, forced labour and labour exploitation (https://www.liv.ac.uk/media/livacuk/publicpolicypractice/12p_booklet.pdf). This is designed to help businesses meet their responsibility to promote human rights and to understand and address any associated risks. Corporate Social Responsibility in this sector has, in the past, been primarily about environmental issues. Now, however, it now needs to focus on human rights, with large corporations able to bring about change because of their power within the supply chain. Dr Balch identified the Modern Slavery Act as driving change in this area because it imposes requirements on businesses. Companies are, he argued aware that something needs to be done and are motivated to a, but are unsure about what to do next – the guide can help with this.

Dr Balch also emphasised the value of working together in local networks to bring together business, the public and charitable sectors, higher education and law enforcement in confronting the reality of modern slavery. The theme of sharing information resonated throughout the seminar which was attended by academics, representatives of local businesses and consumers. Discussion points included the indicators of trafficking that front-line hospitality employees might look for and the difficulties for small businesses in tackling the issue due to lack of access to resources. It is hoped the dialogue will continue, with the next exchange of ideas to take place with a focus on survivors of trafficking, taking place in the autumn.

Kate Clayton-Hathway, Oxford Brookes Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice

This blog reflects only the author’s views and not those if the European Commission. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of information contained in this blog.

A Darker Side of Hospitality

When we think of the hospitality industry most of us think back on positive or happy experiences; having a meal out with the family; sharing a laugh with friends over a few drinks in a bar; relaxing on holiday and enjoying the luxury of room service or the spa; escaping our daily routines, if only briefly. Even when travelling on business, the experience of visiting different cities or countries and staying in hotels is often viewed as glamorous, particularly by those who do not travel regularly. Indeed we often sell this positive image of the industry to our prospective students.

However, there is a darker side for some who experience the hospitality industry and one that few of us are likely to acknowledge in our courses at present. These experiences are those faced by people who have been trafficked. Human trafficking is a major, global phenomenon and the hospitality industry has been identified as a facilitator or enabler of trafficking.

The ILO (2012) estimates that approximately 21 million people are trafficked globally, where women and people over 18 years of age represent the majority of victims.

There are three main criteria that underpin human trafficking: movement, coercion and exploitation. Coercion can occur through violence, restriction on movement, bonded labour, withholding wages, retention of passports or identify documents and the threat of denunciation to authorities (ref). Exploitation can be sexual or through slavery, forced or compulsory labour, domestic servitude or even organ removal. The ILO (2012) advises that 90% of trafficked victims are exploited in the private economy; 22% for sexual purposes and 68% through forced labour.

There are three main reasons why hospitality businesses are ‘in the spotlight’ regarding human trafficking. First, the growing reliance on recruitment agencies and agency labour increases the risk of hospitality business employing victims of trafficking. Although there are sound financial reasons for outsourcing recruitment and employment, the use of agency workers creates a ‘distance’ between employer and employee and makes it easier for workers to be exploited. Second, the global nature of the industry results in often complex and opaque supply chains where trafficking may be difficult to detect. Third, businesses such as hotels, bars, and nightclubs are often used, frequently unknowingly, as a vehicle for exploitation thereby enabling it to occur. As such, these hospitality businesses may benefit commercially from trafficking. For businesses knowingly or unknowingly involved in trafficking therefore there are risks associated with brand reputation, exposure to criminality and the reputation of the industry as a whole.

While there is a growing global awareness of trafficking, many argue that current corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have done little to tackle exploitation. There have been efforts made to implement initiatives for the prevention of child exploitation, however, there is still a need to tackle and eradicate other forms of trafficking and the violation of human rights within the hospitality industry. There are some notable hotel and tourism firms who have publicly committed to this cause by signing up to the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism and participating in initiatives such as the Youth Career Initiative. The International Tourism Partnership provides guidelines to use when checking and using recruitment agencies. Other guidelines on being aware of trafficking are offered by the AH&LA which also offers training courses related to child trafficking for a fee. There is however, a new research project Combat that seeks to go farther in the fight to eradicate human trafficking.

Combat is a European Commission funded project that aims to design and develop a preventive and remedial training toolkit that will offer unique, practical, step-by-step guidance for hospitality and tourism businesses to combat human trafficking. The project adopts a three-pronged approach to equip the industry with action-oriented policies and standards from an operations perspective, a law enforcement perspective and a victim’s perspective. It also seeks to ensure that appropriate policies and strategies are developed to mitigate trafficking, create organisational environments that encourage reporting of trafficking incidents, and provide immediate victim support when a case is discovered. It aims to develop training tools for use at the strategic (corporate), management and operational levels within hospitality businesses. The training toolkits developed through the project will be available free of charge for hospitality organisations and educational institutions.

As educators, we seek to develop graduates as global citizens; citizens who are ethically minded and socially responsible. Perhaps the training tools developed through COMBAT should therefore be adopted for use in our curricula?

Maureen Brookes, Vice President of ICHRIE and Reader in Marketing and Teaching Fellow at Oxford Brookes University

This article was originally published in the May issue of Communiqué, by the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education.

A new step for COMBAT

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COMBAT – Measures against Human Trafficking in the Tourist Industry team.

The project started in October 2014 and has now completed analyzing the phenomenon of human trafficking in the EU, entering the stakeholder-interviewing phase.

Taking this next step called for a team meeting, which we were honored to host. Participants were Simonetta Manfredi, Kate Clayton Hathaway, Maureen Brookes and Emma Meats from Oxford Brookes University, Alexandros Paraskevas and Angela Roper from University of West London, Nikko Niemisalo and Pekka IIvaari from Lapland University of Applied Sciences, and Mădălina Mocan, Mihai Cazacu, Andreea Salvan and Lavinia Gliga from CRD.

The meeting agenda was dense, as the team did a progress update and set new goals for the following months.

The research report that offers an overview of human trafficking in the EU, complete with policy frameworks, movement streams and national and international networks, will be uploaded on the project’s web site. The literature review is also complete, and will be processed along with information from the research report in a comprehensive report that will contextualize human trafficking within the EU, with special focus on the hospitality industry.

Interviewing all relevant stakeholders – hotel managers, authorities, human trafficking and tourism NGOs etc. – is an important step, since it will provide key information for the main goal of the project: designing a training kit that will offer step-by-step guidance for tourism companies in combatting human trafficking.

Outside the busy working schedule, our partners also met with some of our local collaborators and human trafficking specialists, and Alexandros Paraskevas, professor of strategic risk management, gave an interview about the human trafficking phenomenon to the regional newspaper Vocea Transilvaniei (the two articles, in Romanian, are here and here).

COMBAT in Risk UK

Screenshot 2015-04-08 13.06.49

Risk UK, a monthly magazine specifically aimed at security and risk management, loss prevention, business continuity and fire safety professionals operating in the UK‘s largest commercial organizations, dedicated their February cover to human trafficking, under the headline “Slavery in the Modern Age − Human Trafficking and the ‘Invisible Risk'”.

COMBAT team member Alexandros Paraskevas, Professor of Strategic Risk Management at the London School of Hospitality and Tourism, University of West London, addressed the issue in a two-page article, describing the risk of modern slavery −focusing on the hospitality industry−, and the remedies brought by a project such as COMBAT.

The nature and necessities of modern slavery, namely the requirement for continuous movement, temporary accommodation and supply of low cost products and services, put hospitality businesses (hotels, restaurants, catering companies, etc.) in a high level of exposure but at the same time in a unique position to identify and combat this criminal activity. These businesses are often accused for ‘turning a blind eye’ to human traffickers by outsourcing their cleaning and catering services to dubious sub-contractors; allowing sexual trafficking in their premises; employing migrant workers without appropriate due diligence, buying products produced by forced or bonded labour, labour exploitation or violation of labour rights; or by simply ‘not noticing’. The reported numbers of modern slavery victims in the sector appear to be low. In 2013, in the UK, 1% (7 victims) of forced labour victims referred to services came from the restaurant or bar sector, and 41% of victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, with 4% (44 people) sexually exploited in hotels. But it is a common ‘secret’ that traffickers merely take advantage of the privacy and anonymity offered by these businesses and they are able to operate through them at low risk.

Taking a more risk-based approach, a consortium led by Oxford Brookes University with the collaboration of the London School of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of West London, the Ratiu Foundation for Democracy in Romania and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences in Finland was funded by the European Commission to develop a training toolkit to help the the hospitality and wider tourism sector to combat human trafficking. The consortium is supported by an advisory board consisting of personalities nationally and internationally renowned for their expertise and activity against human trafficking.

This two-year development project started last October and, broadly based on the “Three-Lines of Defence” principle, aims at a toolkit that will provide training and guidance at three different levels: operational (on the field), tactical (management support) and strategic (board-level policies and practices). The training will not be only about awareness and detecting signals of human trafficking but also about action that will take into consideration the business perspective as much as the law enforcement and the victims’ perspectives. So, at operational level, say in a hotel, it will move from detection to verification with the help of experts and reporting (not only through management structures but also through anonymous disclosure line), evidence collection and/or preservation for effective prosecution by law enforcement and immediate (as well as possible long-term) victim treatment – before police and social workers arrive. At tactical (management support) level, the training will include proposals on developing company-wide policies and procedures as well as support mechanisms (e.g., anonymous disclosure from units, as there is a possibility that individual managers or even owners are involved in trafficking) that go beyond everyday operations also in the the supply chain (e.g., vetting agents providing outsourced cleaning crews, key suppliers of linen or fresh food products, etc.) and to victims’ rehabilitation through CR programmes. Finally, at board strategic level on policy statements, advocacy and participation on global networks, third party certification, systems auditing procedures, etc.

Read the full story in Risk UK, pages 48 − 49.

The UK Modern Slavery Bill and the Hospitality Industry

On February 16th a briefing was held at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London to introduce the UK Modern Slavery Bill and to discuss its implications for the hospitality industry. Modern slavery is an over-arching term that includes human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour. The proposed Bill is designed to tackle these human rights offenses and requires organizations to disclose on an annual basis the steps undertaken to ensure that trafficking is not taking place in any part of the organization, including their supply chain.

The briefing was chaired by Neill Wilkins from the Institute of Human Rights and Business.Wilkins began the session by introducing the various types of trafficking. Trafficking occurs when a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person for the purposes of exploitation. There are three main criteria that underpin trafficking: movement, coercion and exploitation. While coercion can take place by force or fraud, coercion by fraud is far more common an occurrence.  According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), forced labour has six key indicators including physical or sexual violence, restriction on movement, bonded labour, withholding of wages, retention of passports and identity documents and the threat of denunciation to authorities.

Within the hotel industry, the risk of trafficking is increasing given the growing reliance on recruitment agencies and agency labour. While the advantages to hotels of using recruitment agencies are recognized, the use of agency workers creates a distance between the employer and the employee which, in turn, creates a number of additional risks for organizations. These risks include those to workers, to brand reputation, to exposure to criminality and to the reputation of the industry. Businesses are encouraged to act responsibly and respect human rights and adopt the SEE formula: Scrutinise, Engage and Ensure when using agency labour.

Whilst the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) regulates all businesses providing workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry, to make sure they meet the employment standards required by law, no such licensing authority exists for the hospitality industry.

There are however current best practice guidelines available to use when checking and using recruitment agencies. These and other practical products and programmes, to encourage best ‘human rights’ practices within the industry have been developed by the International Tourism Partnership. Fran Hughes, Head of Programmes for ITP, provided the audience with an overview of these products.

Klara Skrivankova from Anti-Slavery Internationalspoke briefly about the long history of this organization. She advised, however, that while slavery has been abolished around the globe, it has not been eradicated. In fact, it is considered more prevalent today than it was in Abraham Lincoln’s day. Skrivankova reported that in the UK, 10-13,000 people are affected by modern slavery but ‘the chains’ that bind people to forced labour are rarely visible. Instead, these chains are psychological ones which make forced labour difficult to detect and hard to combat. In other words, there is a clear need for the Modern Slavery Bill.

In its current state, the Bill directs that any business with a turnover threshold of GBP 60m will be required to disclose their policies and practices to ensure ethical labour practices. Skrivankova suggested however that the hospitality industry could learn from other sectors and called for initiatives to encourage the sharing of best practice.

The final speaker was Helen McTaggart, the Ethical Trading Manager for Marks & Spencer’s Foods. Helen emphasized the commonality between the retail and hospitality sectors as being the importance of brands and the high expectations of customers. M&S take a tiered and risk-based approach to assess exposure when dealing with their suppliers. They are also part of a collaborative initiative, Stronger Together, to deter, detect and eradicate unethical labour practices.

A lively discussion followed suit that focussed on particular issues in the industry. One key concern was the prevalent use of franchising and management contracts. Franchisees for example are legal entities in their own right and it is not clear in the current bill the extent to which the franchisor will be held responsible for the acts of franchisees. However there is also a difference between legal responsibility and legal liability. The principal of a person ‘knows or ought to know’ could mean that franchisors could be subject to criminal liability.

Some concerns were expressed about the UK Modern Slavery Bill’s similarity to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act which did not actually produce the levels of disclosure that the legislators would wish for. However, it was argued that in the UK Modern Slavery Bill there is a ‘sunset clause’ that will allow changes as more experience through its implementation is gained. The main point raised was that the Bill is only about disclosure and does not tackle the crime as it does not offer any improvements to the way modern slavery is policed or its victims are legally and morally supported.

Whilst the UK Modern Slavery Bill is considered a good step in the right direction to address trafficking and forced labour issues, it is not yet finalized. There is a commitment by all stakeholders however to ensure that the Bill is passed by March 26, 2015. In the meantime, it is clear that hospitality businesses need stronger support in addressing the problem within the sector and it is in this direction that the COMBAT project is moving with its three-pronged approach: to equip the industry with action-oriented policies and standards from an operations perspective, a law enforcement perspective and a victim’ s perspective.

− Maureen Brookes, Reader in Marketing and Teaching Fellow within the Oxford School of Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University

On Invisible Slaves and Involuntary Slave Masters

What would you say or do if you knew that behind your most beautiful vacations or most perfect evenings out, there are slaves working for you? That your wine and food are served by invisible slaves? That your hotel room and en suite are cleaned by enslaved maids? That some of the people traveling next to you on a plane, in the hope of a chance of employment, may be slaves before they even know it? That, unwittingly, some of your happiness is supported by people who go to through tremendous physical and psychological suffering and who are treated without any shred of human dignity?

My reflections on modern slavery start with a story. It is a story calledThe Ones Who Walk Away From the Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin’s. When I first read it, I thought it employed exquisitely a literary device to make an extreme point. Now I know Le Guin was just speaking the truth, ahead of her time: Omelas is a utopian society of perfect happiness, well-being and harmony, inhabited by virtuous and honourable people. In Omelas everything is perfect. The twist is that the city has a secret: Omelas’ all-encompassing happiness and perfection can exist only if a child is kept enslaved in perpetual darkness and squalor, sacrificed for the others. When coming of age, all the inhabitants find out about it.

We are not far from Omelas. In a way, we live in it every day. Yes, there are slaves working for each and every one of us, even if we are not told about them when we come of age. Not long ago, I found out that I had 23 slaves working for me (more about this here ). No, the abolition of slavery in the 19th century was not the end. No, it is not happening only in violent, underdeveloped, “different” countries far away. There are slaves right here, in Europe. Modern slavery is a contemporary reality and we are all partaking in it. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), around 21 million men, women and children around the world are in a form of slavery. This is equal to the entire population of Romania. The figure is still disputed as being too conservative.

The UK is very much aware of the issue. That is why the UK Parliament is looking at adopting a Modern Slavery Bill, which will help us get closer to addressing the issue than previous legislation. [1]

Romania is constantly in the top ten countries of origin for victims trafficked to the UK (and to the EU in general). This was most recently substantiated by data from the UK National Crime Agency [2] and from the latest European Commission Report recently published by Eurostat.[3]

Karen Bradley, the UK Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, said: “Yet these figures show that it [modern slavery] is taking place here – often out of sight – in shops, fields, building sites and behind the curtains of houses on ordinary streets.”

Through some of their reputed institutions, Romania and the UK are making efforts to work together, in order to fight modern slavery associated with the hospitality industries. The Combat Measures against Human Trafficking in the Tourist Industry (COMBAT THB) project focuses on the hospitality and tourism industry and is coordinated by Oxford Brookes University together with the Ratiu Center for Democracy in Turda, as well as with the University of West London (UK) and Lapin University of Applied Sciences (Finland). While, according to available data, the numbers of victims are relatively small[4], the real numbers are very likely to be much higher, precisely because of the invisible nature of modern slavery. The vast majority of employers recruit people legitimately, but some firms find themselves targeted by deceitful agencies or individuals.

The core goal of this project is to study the phenomenon from a multi-disciplinary and transnational perspective, in order to provide policy recommendations and to develop a comprehensive toolkit for the tourism business. This toolkit would assist in setting up company-wide policies and procedures to identify, deter and prevent trafficking, as well as to encourage wider partnerships. The project will last for two years and it will involve all the relevant hospitality and tourism stakeholders in the design of a preventive and remedial toolkit, which will offer a unique, practical, step-by-step guide for tourism businesses to combat human trafficking.

Modern slavery can take many forms, including: physical constraints or restrictions placed on freedom of movement; forced work, through mental of physical threat; control or ownership by an employer, usually through mental or physical abuse or threat of abuse; dehumanisation and treatment as a commodity or being bought and sold as property.

Going back to Le Guin’s story: some of the citizens, upon finding out about the child, silently walk away from the city. “The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”

Now you know. Now we know. And we need to walk away from it in any way we can.

− Cora Moțoc, British Embassy in Bucharest 

Notes:

[1] January 29, the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill Committee in the UK Parliament will take evidence from legal experts to consider how to define the term “modern slavery” within legislation. More details and live feed here:http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/draft-modern-slavery-bill/news/definition-of-modern-slavery-ev-sess/

[2] The UK has ten priority human trafficking countries based on the 1,186 potential victim referrals made through the national referral Mechanism in 2012. Romania is constantly one of them, along with Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the UK itself, to name just the other European countries on the list. There are also some other countries identified as ‘Watch List’ and others considered nexus points or transit routes for trafficking to the UK. This indicates that the trafficking phenomenon is endemic and there has to be a Europe-wide effort to fight it. On September 30, 2014, the National Crime Agency has published the third annual Strategic Assessment of the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2013. The NCA’s United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) estimates that 2,744, people, including 602 children, were potential victims of trafficking for exploitation in 2013, an increase of 22 per cent on 2012. The report lists the 10 most common countries of origin for victims, which shows Romania as the most prevalent country overall, for the third year in a row, more than half of which are exploited for sex.

[3]http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-is new/news/news/docs/20141017_working_paper_on_statistics_on_trafficking_in_human_beings_en.pdf

[4] In 2013, in the UK, 1% (7 victims) of forced labour victims referred to services came from the restaurant or bar sector, and 41% of victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, with 4% (44 people) sexually exploited in hotels.

Letter of Endorsement

Anneliese Dodds, Labour MEP for the South East of England

Recent figures from the Salvation Army suggest that my own region, the South East, has a major problem with human trafficking. Over the three years covered by its recent reports, no less than 849 people were referred to its services from the Salvation Army’s South East and South regions (covering essentially the South East European Parliamentary constituency, plus London). And that is only the lucky ones who were discovered by police, local authorities or other bodies. While the National Crime Agency has estimated that there were 2,744 people in the UK who had been trafficked between 2012-13, others have suggested the true figure is likely to be much higher.

Victims are trafficked for the purposes of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. While, sadly, there is evidence of British citizens being trafficked, the largest groups of victims mentioned in the Salvation Army report were women from Albania and Nigeria, and men from Hungary, Romania and Lithuania.

So what can be done to stop this unpleasant ‘trade’ in human beings? Recognising the fact that people are often, if not always, trafficked across countries, many actions have been taken at European level. A 2011 European Directive set out what European countries needed to do to protect and support victims of trafficking, as well as ways to better deal with its perpetrators. Although the UK government initially declined to participate in this Directive, after pressure from campaigners it signed up.  In addition, earlier this year, the Labour MEP Mary Honeyball, released a report on ‘Sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality’, which suggested a number of measures which could be taken to reduce demand for trafficked women and children by criminalising the buying of ‘sexual services’.

Nonetheless, it is clear that a multi-pronged attack is needed, which includes better support for the victims of trafficking, tougher penalties for traffickers and those who knowingly benefit from trafficked labour, and quicker and more thorough identification of the victims of trafficking.

As a result, I was delighted to hear about the launch a few days ago of the COMBAT project. This project is coordinated by Oxford Brookes University, but has links with organisations from right across the EU. It innovatively focuses on those who provide the routes along which trafficked people pass − the hospitality and tourism industry.

The project aims to create a toolkit which will help businesses to identify when their services are being used for trafficking, and how they can act to deter and ultimately prevent this in the future. Specifically, it will provide companies like hotels, travel agencies and airlines with the information and practical advice they need to counter this version of modern slavery.

No reputable tourism business would want to be involved in trafficking- indeed, I fully believe that the vast majority would be appalled to find out their services were being used in this way- yet clearly, many are currently being used by traffickers. This project should help empower businesses to reject this very dirty ‘trade’ in human beings.

− Anneliese Dodds, Labour MEP for the South East of England