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To combat human trafficking into the UK, the UK must work with the rest of Europe, and not opt out as the Tories desire

October 18, 2012 5:11 PM

By Bill Newton Dunn MEP

Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Today is UK Anti-Slavery Day and EU Anti-Human Trafficking Day. Bill Newton Dunn, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East Midlands, emphasises the need for EU Police and Judicial cooperation to combat human trafficking. He insists that the ludicrous Tory proposal to opt out of essential JHA (justice & home affairs) measures, will lead to even more problems when tackling such heinous crimes.

Liberal Democrat Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Northamptonshire Paul Varnsverry has written to the Home Secretary to urge her to ensure that police and prosecutors can continue to work effectively and quickly with their European counterparts to fight human trafficking and slavery.

Writing in The Times today, three of Britain's leading Anti-Human Trafficking charities warn that the UK's fight against human trafficking will be severely damaged if the British police cannot work across borders in Europe to combat these international crimes.

Yet 102 Tory backbench MPs in the Commons want the UK to abandon Europe's international crime-fighting measures.

Bill Newton Dunn commented:

"Human trafficking is one of the worst crimes imaginable. Many victims end up as modern day slaves, when they were in their home country and were sold a dream of a better life. Even today the government released its Inter-Departmental report on Human Trafficking which demonstrates that the number of victims is on the rise."

"To combat this cross-border crime effectively, we need to work across borders too. Our Police and Crime Commissioner Candidates, police chiefs and law societies are deeply worried that Conservative Eurosceptics will damage our ability to catch criminals because of their illogical dislike of anything that comes from the EU."

"I want our police officers to be able to catch criminals and break up their criminal organisations quickly and effectively. They can only do that if we keep measures to cooperate effectively across Europe. "

"Britain has a proud record of leading Europe in fighting human trafficking, bringing the traffickers to justice and releasing those held as slaves. We must not put that in jeopardy."

  • Under the Lisbon Treaty, the British Government must decide by 1 July 2014 at the very latest whether the UK will remain part of all existing pre-Lisbon EU legislation in the field of police and judicial cooperation after 2015.
  • In August 2012, 13 senior former UK police chiefs wrote to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister warning them against pulling out of these measures (see letter attached).
  • In February 2012, 102 Tory backbenchers called for the Government to abandon all existing European police and justice cooperation measures including several local MPs: Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South, Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry, Stephen Phillips, MP for Sleaford & North Hykeham, Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln, Martin Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes, Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, Patrick Mercer, MP for Newark and Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire.
  • The threat from serious and organised international crime and terrorism is growing. The Home Office estimates that organised crime costs the UK up to £40bn a year (£1,700 per household), involves 8,000 criminal gangs and nearly 40,000 gangsters.
  • The European Arrest Warrant has been used to extradite over 4,000 dangerous foreign criminals from our streets to face justice abroad, and bring back over 700 of the UK's most wanted serious crimes back to face British justice here.
  • Police share information, intelligence and best practice with their European counterparts on a daily basis through a highly developed set of EU cross-border police and judicial networks, databases and via EU agencies such as Europol and Eurojust.

National Success Stories through EU cooperation:

Operation Golf, a joint investigation between the Met, Europol and Romania, which broke up a pan-EU organised child trafficking network. 121 individuals across Europe were arrested and 181 children were freed.

Operation Rescue, where the Met teamed up with Europol to coordinate a 30-country investigation, cracking open the world's largest online paedophile network. Over 184 arrests were made, and 230 sexually exploited children were released, including 60 in the UK.

The EU-wide search for Hussein Osman, one of the failed 21/7 London bombers, who was tracked down and arrested in Italy and brought back to the UK using the Arrest Warrant to face trial within a matter of days. It is little wonder that 77% of Londoners and the British public at large support close cooperation with Europe on counter-terrorism, policing and border security.