Having just arrived in the UK on Tuesday, going to meetings on Wednesday with Home Office officials seemed a bit daunting. Carrie Pemberton, the CEO of CHASTE, tends to keep a schedule that would tire an Olympic athlete. Despite jet lag and a looming cold, I was eager to learn more about what the United Kingdom is doing to address human trafficking. So I drank some strong coffee and headed off to London with Carrie to absorb some new information.
Carrie was interviewed by an official from the Home Office to discuss the successes and failures of Operation Pentameter. Pentameter took place in the United Kingdom in February 2006 and was the largest coordinated, inter-agency effort to crack down on trafficking on a national scale. During this operation, 232 people were arrested and 134 charges were brought against suspected traffickers. 84 poetential trafficking victims were identified. Despite preconceived notions, more than Eastern European women were discovered, including African, South East Asian, and Brazilian women.
As an outsider, what is truly striking is the victim focused approach and the clear commitment from the government that trafficking requires urgent attention. However, there is clearly a gap between government commitment and funding. The UK lacks spare capacity and bed space in safe houses for trafficking victims, as well as a route to citizenship for these vulnerable women. 1/3 of safe house capacity in the UK is funded by the churches and coordinated by CHASTE; which is quite shocking when you realize how tiny CHASTE is and that its budget is probably a rounding error for the Home Office’s balance sheets. Given the importance of CHASTE in the provision of safe housing and trafficking victim assistance overall, the government really ought to be coughing up the funds for CHASTE. At the end of the interview, the inability of government to bridge the funding gap was ironically illustrated by a particular government official’s complete bewilderment at our request for reimbursement of our travel expenses from Cambridge to London.
My initial impressions are of a very dedicated and effective organization (CHASTE), headed by a very dynamic and committed woman who is making a real difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable women in Great Britain. The government, despite its mistakes, is taking some intial steps to address the trafficking issue, releasing the “UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking” in March of 2007 and gearing up for Operation Pentameter II next year. Clearly, there is so much more to be done. My preliminary assumption about the crucial role of funding was confirmed later that night by Carrie. When I asked her what her largest organizational challenge was, she replied without hesitation: funding. Everything else can be improved but it all flows from funding.
Posted By Jennifer Hollinger
Posted Jun 9th, 2007