Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  You asked for further information about what UNMIK, HMG and other international organisations are doing to combat human trafficking in Kosovo.

  1.  In recent years the turmoil in the Western Balkans and in Kosovo in particular, has provided a breeding ground for serious crime such as human trafficking. The countries of the Western Balkans have become both significant transit and source countries for illegal immigration into the EU. The UK is committed to combating human trafficking in the Balkan region and globally.

Human Trafficking: Overall UK Strategy

  2.  HMG strategy encompasses a wide range of actions, including prevention in source and transit countries, co-operation with international partners, strengthening UK domestic law, tackling criminals through intelligence and enforcement operations, clamping down on illegal working and supporting the victims of trafficking.

  3.  In 2000, Project Reflex, a practical multi-agency task force was established in the UK to tackle all forms of organised immigration crime. Led by the National Crime Squad, Reflex brings together all the key government agencies which are involved in this work, including the Immigration Service, the Home Office, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, major police forces, the security and intelligence agencies and the FCO. Reflex quickly set up a network of over twenty Immigration Liaison Officers, mainly in Europe, to work with other governments and authorities to disrupt and dismantle smuggling and trafficking gangs. Joint operational units have also been set up at Heathrow and Gatwick where Immigration Service officers work alongside police officers.

  4.  The FCO contributes to the work of Reflex by raising awareness abroad of the dangers of trafficking among potential victims and host country authorities, and by reporting on local trends. The UK has funded a range of projects in the Western Balkans which have helped to raise the capacity of local authorities to combat trafficking as well as to support its victims. These include:

    —  an anti-trafficking witness protection and support project in Albania and a study on the role of women in the Albania Police Force;

    —  provision of equipment for the Anti-Human Trafficking and Sexual Offences Unit in Bosnia;

    —  provision of funding to enable selected Serbian police officers to attend an OSCE conference on human trafficking in Vienna.

International Conventions

  5.  The UK has ratified the key instruments that outlaw slavery—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Slavery Convention and the International Labour Organisation Conventions 29 and 105 on Forced Labour. We continue to promote their widest possible ratification and implementation.

  6.  The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime came into force in September 2003. Two of the three Protocols designed to improve co"operation in the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings associated with it have also come into force. While the UK has signed the Convention and its Protocols, there still remains some primary legislation to be put in place before the UK can go ahead with ratification. This will be done as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

International Organisations

  7.  The UK also works to combat organised immigration crime through international organisations such as the EU, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, NATO, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Many of these organisations also fund their own projects on human trafficking and smuggling.

  8.  Through the European Council's Framework Decision on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in 2002, the EU called on governments across the world to take concrete measures and to intensify co-operation aimed at prevention of people trafficking through to victim assistance.

Human Trafficking in Kosovo

  9.  In the past five years, Kosovo has become a major destination and transit country for trafficked women and girls forced into prostitution. The majority of these victims are trafficked from elsewhere in South East Europe, particularly Moldova and Romania. Passage into Kosovo is achieved primarily from Serbia as well as from Macedonia (from the UNMIK report: "Combating Human Trafficking in Kosovo—Strategy and Commitment", May 2004)


  10.  In October 2000 IJNMIK established a Trafficking and Prostitution Investigation Unit (TPIU). The TPIU has regionally deployed Units, but is controlled centrally at the UNMIK Police Main Headquarters. Central control has facilitated the integration of the TPIU into the overall anti-organised crime establishment of UNMIK Police that incorporates other specialised units. The sharing of intelligence with the Central Intelligence Unit (CIU) and the Kosovo Organised Crime Bureau (KOCB) has enhanced the ability to track the movement of key organised crime operators and has enabled joint regional operations and other investigations by the specialised units in Kosovo. The Unit also works with UNMIK Border Police to intercept human traffickers and their victims at the various crossing points along the international border and administrative boundary line.

  11.  The TPIU's responsibilities include intelligence gathering, assistance to victims of trafficking, and the identification of both traffickers and the establishments where illegal trafficking/prostitution activities are occurring. In addition, the Unit is responsible for the collation of evidence and full support for the prosecution services to close down the illegal establishments and bring the traffickers to justice. A further key role of the Unit is to maintain and update the UNMIK "Off Limits List" of businesses suspected of indulging in prostitution which is produced at the end of each month and is distributed to UNMIK and OSCE staff.

  12.  The TPIU currently has a strength of 26 international staff and 21 Kosovo police service staff. Although this is a large increase since the unit was established in October 2000 with 22 staff, HMG believes the resource provided to the unit is not sufficient and we are working closely with the UN to secure an increase.

  13.  UNMIK is taking steps to protect the victims of trafficking and seeks to ensure that proper assistance and rehabilitation is provided. At the beginning of 2002 the Department of Justice created a specialised "Victims Advocacy and Assistance Unit" (VAAU). The VAAU in collaboration with the TPIU aims to protect the victims of trafficking from further exploitation, as well as providing interpretation, psychological, medical and shelter support, regardless of any charges of prostitution or of illegal entry that may be pending against them. The VAAU maintains a database of potentially vulnerable foreign women working in a variety of businesses across Kosovo, to monitor and assist potential victims of trafficking. By the end of April 2004, 1261 names had been registered on the database.


  14.  For the first time in its history, NATO adopted a policy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings at the NATO Istanbul Summit in June 2004. A key part of this policy is to ensure that all personnel taking part in NATO-led operations receive appropriate training to make them aware of the problem of trafficking, how it impacts on human rights, stability and security. The training also informs them of their own responsibilities in the field. NATO has an agreed implementation plan and is actively working to implement fully its policy.

  15.  NATO has a supporting role in tackling all forms of organised crime in both Bosnia and Kosovo, although this assistance must be consistent with its mandate and the means and capabilities of its forces. KFOR provides assistance to civil organisations responsible for tackling organised crime, such as the UNMIK TPIU, by the sharing of intelligence. Within this, the UK has been at the forefront of this support, as other nations' constraints on the use of their forces do not allow military participation. The UK contribution to KFOR is a specialised unit, able to operate KFOR-wide and ideally placed to provide this assistance.

Regional Co-operation

  16.  UNMIK have worked with a number of organisations to integrate its activities within wider regional initiatives.

  17.  In December 2003, the UK was heavily involved in putting in place an OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings. The comprehensive Plan aims to address trafficking through prevention, prosecution of criminals, international assistance and protection of victims. A Special Representative, Helga Konrad, was appointed on 13 May 2004 to head a special unit within the OSCE. The OSCE runs projects in South Eastern Europe aimed at building legal and technical capacity and raising awareness of the problem whilst co-operating with other international organisations and domestic groups.

  18.  UNMIK have worked closely with the Stability Pact Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings (SPTF). The SPTF is an instrument of co-ordination to encourage and strengthen the co-operation among the countries of South Eastern Europe. Although established in 2000, since May 2004 the task force has come under the auspices of the OSCE.

  19.  UNMIK have also established contact with the South East European Co-operation Initiative (SECI) Crime Centre in Bucharest. The SECI centre aims to serve as a co-ordinating hub for the transmission of information on crimes and criminals from one signatory state to another. The TPIU has initiated direct contact with police from the participating SECI states to share intelligence. UNMIK have also signed police co-operation agreements with all its neighbours.

UK Assistance

  20.  The UK currently has over 100 police officers in Kosovo, many of whom are attached to UNMIK's specialist crime units. UK Officers are trained in diversity and bound to a standard code of conduct. We are currently working on strengthening awareness of trafficking and gender issues on pre-deployment training courses.

  21.  The UK played a leading role in establishing the CIU in Kosovo and continues to provide a high proportion of its personnel (currently 12). The CIU was established within UNMIK Police and has been operational since April 2001. The CIU is staffed by 40 international intelligence specialists. The CIU develops intelligence based target packs and shares information with KFOR and Interpol. It has developed a detailed intelligence database on those individuals who head or play a major role in organised crime within Kosovo.

  22.  The UK has also invested more than half a million pounds to provide the Kosovo Organised Crime Bureau with surveillance and intercept equipment, which has played a key part in disrupting a number of criminal operations. The KOCB was created at the end of 2001 to serve as the operational arm of the CIU and develops intelligence into evidence for criminal proceedings.

Amnesty International Report

  23.  The Amnesty International Report of 6 May 2004 on human trafficking in Kosovo ("`So does that mean I have rights': Protecting the human rights of women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution in Kosovo") was critical of UNMIK and KFOR's efforts to combat the problem. The report made a number of recommendations which the UK welcomes, though the majority of these reflect work already being planned or carried out by the UK, the EU, the UN and NATO.

  24.  UNMIK and KFOR have both emphasised that the report is based heavily on evidence from 1999-2001 and concentrates less on recent progress. According to UNMIK figures, in 2003 the TPIU conducted 2,047 raids, operations and bar checks directed at premises where trafficking in persons and/or prostitution activities were suspected. As a result of these raids 57 establishments were closed down and 60 people were charged for trafficking (as of May 04, of those charged, 16 had been convicted, 18 released and 26 were awaiting trial).

What more can be done?

  25.  Despite this progress more needs to be done. UNMIK recognise this and have identified a number of strategic activities for future anti-trafficking efforts for the immediate and foreseeable future (these are set out in the UNMIK report "Combating Human Trafficking in Kosovo—Strategy and Commitment" published in May 2004). These measures include enhanced intelligence gathering and surveillance, public awareness campaigns, a whistle-blowing hotline, mandatory training for prosecutors and judges, as well as a greater emphasis on enhancing regional co-operation. The Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG) with the close co-operation of UNMIK are currently developing an action plan to combat human trafficking which will clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the various actors involved and will incorporate a monitoring mechanism for its implementation.

  26.  The UK welcomes these measures and will continue fully to support the work of UNMIK and KFOR in tackling these abhorrent crimes.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

6 October 2004

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