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Liz Lynne - Consultation all very well, but the Government must sign up to Council of Europe convention on human trafficking

January 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Responding to the Government's launch today of a consultation on human trafficking, Liz Lynne, Lib Dem MEP for the West Midlands and Member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, commented:

"I welcome this consultation, but the initiative doesn't go far enough. If the Government is serious about treating trafficked people as victims rather than perpetrators of crime - as Charles Clarke has stated - it should sign up to the Council of Europe Convention on human trafficking. The Government has had months to do this."

"The Government even made tackling the problem of human trafficking a priority issue during its EU Presidency last year. By not signing up to the Convention, Blair has comprehensively failed to take the lead in Europe in combating this human rights abuse.

"What we need from the Government now is concrete action, not just another consultation."

"These people are not illegal immigrants they are victims of crime whose human rights have been violated. That is why I am strongly in favour of the so called 'breathing' period of 30 days which would allow the victims of trafficking time to stay in the member state to consider whether they wish to co-operate in the prosecution of the trafficker. During that time, they would be given access to counselling and other assistance. They will also be allowed to apply for residence if they would be in danger on returning to their home country or if indeed they agree to give evidence."

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Of the 46 Member States of the Council of Europe, 22 have still to sign the Convention (including the UK and France) and all, including those that have already signed up, have yet to ratify it.

Liz Lynne and Liberal Democrat colleagues have long led the call for tougher laws to deal with the problem of human trafficking, as well as for specific measures to support the victims. Signing up to the Convention will be a major first step. Authorities from across the EU can only stop the gangs by working together.

Liz Lynne has repeatedly urged the Government to sign up to the Convention. At the European Parliament's plenary session in November last year she also questioned Europe Minister, Douglas Alexander, about the Council's initiatives to combat human trafficking in Europe.

Liz has also been active in the European Parliament in promoting a campaign which enlists the help of business travellers in tackling human trafficking. The Business Travellers Against Human Trafficking campaign was launched in November in the Parliament, and a Written Declaration on this issue authored by Liz is currently open for signing by MEPs.