In recent years, there has been a growing concern about a potential link between major sporting events and an increase in human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour and prostitution. At the very least, it is clear that events like the Olympics provide an opportunity for host countries to reassess their anti-trafficking strategies.

The aims of this short briefing paper are threefold:

  • to provide a short overview of the available evidence about the scale of human trafficking in the UK
  • to review the general UK policy response to trafficking and the more specific measures designed for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games
  • to examine areas within the current UK strategy that could be improved, with reference to international good practice.

Quantifying the scale of trafficking to the UK is a significant challenge: estimates of the number of people trafficked to the UK have varied widely, from a few hundreds to tens of thousands.

The UK's response to trafficking has developed rapidly, and policy has come a long way from the days of ad hoc police raids and support solely through charitable-funded voluntary sector agencies. Now the UK has, in the UKHTC, a dedicated agency tasked with coordinating the British response. However, the UK continues to face significant challenges in responding to trafficking and its approach still falls short of international best practice.

There are four key challenges facing the UK:

  1. identifying victims
  2. balancing immigration management and victim protection
  3. oversight and scrutiny
  4. addressing demand for trafficking and exploitation.