Stating that current measures to protect victims of human trafficking in the United Kingdom are inadequate, the bishops of England and Wales are urging the British government to sign and implement the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

In a press release issued May 10, the bishops welcomed the government’s public consultation on its national action plan against trafficking. They also reminded policymakers that, “the dignity and human rights of the person and maintaining the integrity of the family have always to be central to the formulation of anti-trafficking policies.”

But they insisted that the convention be signed in the meantime, as it is currently “the only international law that provides minimum standards of victim protection, support and redress.”

Trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation is a criminal offence in the UK, but the bishops sadly noted that “trafficked people are often treated as illegal immigrants, rather than victims of an evil trade in human suffering.”

The bishops stated that thousands are trafficked to the United Kingdom each year from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Republics and coerced through threats of violence into sexual exploitation and forced labor.

The bishops expressed particular concern for the welfare of children and women trafficked for sexual exploitation. “These crimes are an offence to the dignity and integrity of human beings,” they stressed.