In January 2016 the former Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May MP, asked the Commissioner to visit the migration “hotspots” in Italy and Greece and provide advice on what more could be done to ensure unaccompanied children and vulnerable adults are protected from traffickers.
The Commissioner visited Italy and Greece in May and June 2016, and provided detailed advice to the Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development in July.
The Commissioner highlighted the ways in which the migration crisis is being used by human trafficking networks to target and exploit the most vulnerable, and the need for urgent action. The Commissioner made a wide number of recommendations on what more the UK Government can do. This covered working with partners to prioritise safeguarding against the risks of modern slavery as part of the response to the migration and refugee crisis; specific efforts needed to safeguard against risks to women and girls; recommendations on what the UK can do to help safeguard children; and suggestions for the scaling-up of current frontline anti-trafficking safeguarding operations.
The law enforcement response is equally vital. The Commissioner engaged closely with Europol and made suggestions around how targeted counter-trafficking law enforcement efforts can be effectively supported.
The Commissioner is working with the UK Government to establish how his advice can be most effectively acted on. Following submission of the Commissioner’s report, in August the Secretary of State for International Development approved a new £4 million joint assistance fund to help protect migrant and refugee women and girls and other vulnerable persons at risk of trafficking, forced labour, gender based violence, and all other forms of exploitation, in the Mediterranean region.