Prison sentences handed down for the trafficking of young girls into the UK for forced marriages and exploitation are not strong enough to act as a deterrent, says UKIP’s local MEP Louise Bours.
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), in 2013 a total of 600 potential trafficking victims were identified, with 170 of them in the North West of England in 2013*.
The largest numbers in the North West originated form eastern European countries with Hungary (28), Romania (22), and Lithuania (12) topping the NCA’s table.
Speaking to the European Parliament in Brussels (on Wednesday) Ms Bours pointed out that individuals convicted of such crimes faced a maximum sentence of just seven years.
The North West MEP told the parliament that this “is simply not a strong enough deterrent.
“Girls are afraid to speak out, others dismiss it as a cultural practice, and our social services in England, the police, the politicians dare not speak up for fear of being labelled racist.
“The issue of forced marriage does not just affect children living on the African and Asian continents, it is happening across Europe, and the silence surrounding it has many parallels with the exploitation and trafficking of young girls across many towns in Northern England.
“With our open borders, human traffickers have free reign to exploit children – in 2013, over 600 children were trafficked into Britain for exploitation and forced marriage.
“This modern day form of slavery is on the rise – and the EU have given the perpetrators a helping hand by not allowing member states to control their own borders and check criminal backgrounds.”
Ms Bours accused the EU of enabling such crimes to escalate – pointing out that the UK can at least check an individual’s passport, while mainland Europe is prevented from even doing that.
She added: “Criminal trafficking gangs operate with impunity due to EU free movement rules, so whilst members are very good at voicing their outrage at these crimes, they are fundamentally unable to implement anything practical to stop it.”
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