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US TIP report 2015 calls on UK to expand labour inspection to combat trafficking

July 28, 2015

On Monday, the annual United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report was published. The report makes important findings and recommendations on UK efforts to address trafficking for labour exploitation. It not only observes limitations in the UK’s approach to reducing demand for forced labour but critically, notes the reductions in funding to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and recommends expansion of the GLA’s remit and resources. FLEX contributed to the 2015 TIP report and highlighted our concerns about the impact of diminishing labour inspection on labour rights in the UK, and is pleased to see this issue receiving some much-needed attention. 

The report also raises concerns about the risk of re-trafficking in the UK due to the limited 45-day reflection period during which trafficked persons are offered support and assistance. It recommends the UK consider extending this 45-day period, which would enable proper recovery for trafficked persons. The limited funding for services provided to trafficked persons is also highlighted, and the report recommends that the UK increase such funding. This would allow more tailored support provision that would enable service providers to respond to the diverse needs of trafficked persons. 

Finally, the report observes that the way in which domestic workers are tied by their visa to their employers leaving them vulnerable to abuse, and calls for review of the unjust overseas domestic worker visa system.  In the UK the charity Kalayaan has been a strong advocate for the abolition of the tied domestic worker visa, yet the UK government has rejected the suggestion that bonded visas lead to exploitation and has retained the current system. FLEX has previously highlighted these issues in its working paper on Preventing Trafficking for Labour Exploitation, and strongly supports Kalayaan’s efforts to enable domestic workers to change employers and to access their employment rights. 

The TIP report produces country narratives reviewing efforts to combat trafficking across the ‘three P’s’: prevention, protection and prosecution. The report is the subject of much controversy for its tier ranking system (ranging from best, Tier 1, to worst, Tier 3) that is often thought to be tied more to diplomatic interests than data on trafficking responses. This year was no exception and the US Department of State has been criticised for upgrading Cuba and Malaysia from ‘tier 3’ to ‘tier 2 watch list’. Despite the gaps noted above, the United Kingdom has retained its Tier 1 ranking.