Preventing Human Trafficking: New Tavistock Action-Research

Preventing Human Trafficking: New Tavistock Action-Research


30 May 2014

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) is working on several vital EU-funded projects in the area of human trafficking prevention.

Project Briseis seeks to raise awareness on combating trafficking for forced labour, whereas Project ReSAurSE explores social auditing as a means to prevent and intervene in exploitative practices, abuse and coercion also in the areas of illicit inter-country adoption and forced marriages.  We also provide expert reports to support in the UK legal cases of trafficking victims.

Human Trafficking is a hidden but widespread crime taking place in almost every country globally.  Accurate figures are unreliable due to its concealed nature, however in the UK in 2013, 1,746 people were referred to the authorities as potential victims of trafficking, 26% (450) of which were children.1

Trafficking involves the control and transportation of people, both across and within country borders, by illegal means such as coercion, deception, threat or use of force, for the purpose of exploiting them. This includes forced labour or slavery, sexual exploitation and prostitution, forced marriage, adoption, forced participation in crime, begging, organ trafficking alongside other types of exploitation and abuse.2

For example, people who are trafficked for forced labour are deceived or threatened to work, often in subhuman and degrading conditions, without payment of wages, at the extreme – threatened and subjected to physical or sexual violence, and unable to contact others or to leave. Inter-country adoption and forced marriages may involve less explored forms of human trafficking. Despite little research, there is some evidence that they do exist and involve similar ways in which children and women are victimised in exploitative, coercive and deceptive contexts.

Project Briseis

The TIHR is the UK partner in EU-wide Project Briseis, led by the Portuguese Association of Victim Support (APAV). It aims to raise awareness on trafficking of human beings for labour exploitation.  The project seeks to challenge the widespread perception that trafficking is only linked to the sexual exploitation of women and girls3, and to promote greater understanding of trafficking for forced labour. It will do this through awareness raising and training among professionals, in sectors with a high risk of trafficking and a campaign with the general public.  Other EU partners include Soros Foundation, Open Society Foundations (Romania); Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority, Ministry of Justice (Sweden) and La Strada International (European network with headquarters in the Netherlands).

Project ReSAurSE

Project ReSAurSE aims to better understand and raise awareness of the role of exploitative brokering practices in the trafficking of human beings. It looks at underexplored areas of trafficking for forced labour, inter-country adoptions and forced marriage.  The term ‘broker’ in this context is not widely used. One simple definition can be that a broker is a person or agency that acts as an intermediary for others, in negotiating, purchasing, selling in return for a fee or commission. Brokers can be linked to organised crime, semi-legal or legal entities, or acting on their own, possibly often acting without criminal intent but lacking awareness of human trafficking.  The project seeks to examine whether methods of monitoring companies through social auditing and assessing recruitment practices, can help prevent human trafficking and even intervene when this happens.  It involves research in four countries in Southern Europe, identification of best practices, partners’ organisational capacity building and online training of social auditors. The TIHR is the methodological lead, with the University of Coimbra (Portugal) leading the overall project, alongside partners of University of Bacau (Romania), Centre for Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect at the Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare Institute of Child Health (Greece), European Institute for Local Development (Greece), and Confartigianato Imprese Terni Association of Businesses (Italy) who all carry out the research locally and design together the outputs.

Both projects are funded by the European Commission, Department of Home Affairs, under the Prevention of and Fight against Crime (ISEC) Programme.

In addition, we have recently been providing country expert reports for immigration solicitors supporting Nigerian victims of trafficking.  Fees for this work will fund further research on human trafficking issues from Nigeria to the UK.   For further information contact Dr Sadie King s.king@tavinstitute.org.

The TIHR team working in the area of trafficking is Dr Milena Stateva, Laura Stock, Dr Sadie King and Frances Abraham.

Useful links:

If you want to learn more about human trafficking, here is the first ever free user- friendly online training course by Anti-Slavery Australia – a good way of spending well an hour with case studies, feedback, revision and rewards (and yes, it is free!): http://www.antislavery.org.au/e-learning.html

The UN has just issued a new communication calling for regulation of labour markets as key to eradicate pandemic forced labour, read here.


[1] NCA, 2013, United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre, National Referral Mechanism Statistics 2013, National Crime Agency, Available at: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/139-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-2013/file [accessed 28th May 2014].

[2] UNODC, 2014, What is Human Trafficking?, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Available at: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html?ref=menuside [accessed 28th May 2014].

[3] www.ich-mhsw.gr

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