A Rights-Based Approach to Trafficking? The Trafficking of Women for Forced Labour in the European Union and the United Kingdom
Thesis DisciplineEuropean Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Human trafficking is a prominent human rights issue that on a regional and national level brings together elements of criminal justice, immigration affairs, and human rights. Trafficking for forced labour in particular is a form of exploitation that removes a victim’s freedom and dignity, as they are used for their labour and not valued as a human being. The actual extent of human trafficking on its own is difficult to measure, however the ILO estimates there may be as many as 20.9 million people held in forced labour worldwide. This research evaluates whether the European Union (EU) and United Kingdom (UK) implement a human rights-based approach (HRBA) in their policies and legislation covering human trafficking for forced labour. A HRBA is discussed as a human rights framework that includes the empowerment of the trafficking victim, adherence to normative trafficking conventions set by international organisations, and by the extend a criminal justice approach is lessened, in favour of a more human rights-based one. This thesis analyses EU policy, such as the 2002 and 2011 directives on trafficking in human beings, as well as UK government strategies and legislation. The EU has made substantial progress in using a HRBA throughout their policies since 2002, notably in their 2011 and 2012 directives. They increasingly offer minimum standards and provisions of victim support and assistance, taking into consideration potential cross-cultural barriers. They increasingly use the term victim-centred in their reports on human rights, and overall have improved in using a HRBA. The UK has also made progress in incorporating a HRBA in their policies, although they continue to focus heavily on trafficking as a crime that needs a stronger criminal justice response. The creation of a draft Modern Slavery Bill has given the UK a chance to incorporate a HRBA more strongly in their legislation; however they did not use this opportunity fully. The UK also continues to focus on trafficking as an immigration issue, and is unwilling to align itself with all EU policy on trafficking if it has an obligation to provide residence permits to victims. Until the UK can move away from focusing on immigration and criminal aspects of human trafficking, the victim will remain a less prominent part of the trafficking story.