Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Mind your language II


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

human traffickingOn a day where there are several appalling linked stories in the press about the horror and misery of true trafficking (here, here and here), I was sorry to read the Home Office attempting to claim false credit for a trafficking criminal conviction.

The press release in question is dated 1 July 2009 and entitled ‘Man jailed for six years for human trafficking’. However, on further reading it transpires that the offence was a ‘facilitation’ offence, probably under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971. It certainly sounds like a conventional smuggling case, not at all a trafficking case. There is a separate specific offence of trafficking, under section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Clamaints etc) Act 2004. As far as I know there has never been a successful conviction for trafficking.

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, to which the UK is now belatedly a signatory, includes a specific definition of trafficking:

“Trafficking in human beings” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

This was not a trafficking case if the body of the press release is to be believed, and it is plain wrong and misleading for the Home Office to be trying to claim credit for a trafficking conviction when in fact there haven’t been any. In addition, the press release damages public understanding by confusing smuggling and trafficking. Smuggling is with consent, trafficking is without – it’s not a difficult conceptual difference.

This post joins another previous one on misleading press releases. Frankly, I’d quite like them to stop the appalling puns as well.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Free Movement

Free Movement

The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


13 Responses

  1. I could also do without seeing the image of Phil Woolas’ smiling face. That sends me into apoplexy.

  2. “There is a separate specific offence of trafficking, under section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Clamaints etc) Act 2004. As far as I know there has never been a successful conviction for trafficking.”

    Most trafficking enquiries (and therefore convictions) are under Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

    Under both Acts there have been 114 convictions in England + Wales as at a fortnight ago. For breakdown by police force area, visit:

    The Convention’s wording is only a reprint from Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol, signed in 2000

    The SOA 2003’s UK sex trafficking wording’s a mess. Visit my blog at:

    Best, Stephen

  3. I would like to comment but don’t feel safe to do so as there is a bit of a witchunt going on at the moment by the UKBA against staff making comments online that reflect badly on the organisation, I assume that my PO colleauges will also dissappear for the same reason.

    So “au revoir” and possibly “adieu”

    1. I’m very sorry to hear that. I’ve valued our admittedly rather limited and anonymous dialogue here. I can understand the Home Office’s concern as I have seen some real idiots purporting to be Home Office employees making comments on internet forums. ‘Frontier Mole’ springs to mind, on one of the main ones. However, the vast majority of Home Office employee comments here have been constructive and interesting.

      Oh well.

      While they ar at it, though, maybe they could discipline the UKBA press release writer for offences against humour?

    2. If the powers that be feel it necessary to silence the staff,then they’re obviously reading (if not heeding!) the comments at least! Could be deemed a result if you’re a ‘glass half full’ type :-)
      Shame about this gov’s big brother mentality though.Can’t wait to vote them out.

    3. Having watched “Taking Liberties” last night, this sounds decidedly disturbing, but characteristically to form for the HO & New Labour.

      Aging HOPO has certainly batted above the average for POs, and some of his comments have been informative and enlightening.

      “Freedom of speech” ?
      “Right to peaceful protest” ?

      Magna Carta has been denied a UK visa and is being deported back to Afghanistan where the Taliban will hold without trial for at least 90 days.

  4. Unfortunately this will be my last post too. Will still pop in to keep up to date though, so please keep up the good work FM

  5. Hi – I thought I would make a quick return to this posting with a story hot off the presses of the Daily Telegraph, illustrating so well the popular confusion. I’m tempted to write in, but I’m sure you’re better qualified.

    It’s such a classic of its type, it deserves cutting out and framing.

    This story is about human trafficking in the headline, which becomes smuggling in the strapline, trafficking again in the intro paragraph, smugglers in the next para, then by para 5 our “smugglers” have become “traffickers” who, by para 8, are using “smuggling routes” and become “more competent smugglers” by para 9.


    Really, if this is the Daily Telegraph, what’ll happen in the Sun?


    1. Sloppy journalism, sadly. I sort of expect it of journalists as one would not necessarily expect them to know better. I’d hope that the Home Office would, though.