Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Conflict, humanitarian crises and instability have left individuals at risk of exploitation – UK statement to the OSCE [November 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 9 November 2023.

Ambassador Neil Holland thanks the OSCE’s Special Representative on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings for their work on technology and supply chains, and in response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Thank you, Special Representative, for this report, and congratulations on your appointment. The UK and I personally look forward to working closely with you and your team.

We welcome your office’s leadership in coordinating anti-trafficking efforts over the last year. Conflict, humanitarian crises and instability have left individuals at risk of exploitation. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has continued to cause mass migration, increasing the vulnerability of many women and children to trafficking and exploitation.  It is important to tackle all aspects of security threats from the flow of people, which is why the UK was pleased to be able to financially support your office’s earlier work to respond to the increasing risk of trafficking in migration flows.

It is important we continue to monitor the risk of trafficking as a result of the conflict, and adjust our response accordingly. We were pleased to welcome your office to the UK recently to deliver a workshop on enhancing anti-trafficking prevention amid mass migration flows in the UK. This workshop, as with others delivered across the region, was an important opportunity to consider efforts so far to protect Ukrainian refugees and identify what more we need to do.

We are grateful for the previous Special Representative’s visit to the UK last year to carry out an in-depth review of the UK’s response to modern slavery, and the valuable recommendations that came from it. Since then, the UK Government has continued to strengthen our cooperation with key partners, including through a Joint Communique with Albania and a Joint Action Plan with Romania.

The UK recognises that the internet is a key enabler of human trafficking, particularly the sexual exploitation of women and girls. We will continue to work with international partners to tackle online exploitation and to safeguard victims. The UK’s Online Safety Legislation will require online companies to take proactive steps to prevent, identify, and remove content linked to criminal activity, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

We were pleased to be able to support the project that delivered the recent study “Mapping the online landscape of risks of trafficking in human beings on sexual services websites across the OSCE region”. This demonstrates the central role online platforms play in human trafficking and addresses important information gaps.

Elsewhere, eliminating forced labour in global supply chains remains a key international priority for the UK. We support the work of your office in building partnerships between the public sector and financial institutions. Recognising the potential of these partnerships, the UK engaged closely with experts to commission research to understand the interface between modern slavery and global flows of capital. This published research offers a practical roadmap that Capital Market Actors, including investment banks and development finance institutions, can adopt to address modern slavery within their value chains using their leverage and influence. I invite colleagues to read it.

The Alliance Conference this year built upon last year’s focus on migration risks and the needs of victims, and highlighted the need for increased national leadership and political will to ensure an effective international response to trafficking. That is why the UK is pleased to support the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, led by Theresa May. The Commission will inject greater political momentum to drive this issue back up the global agenda. It will do so by increasing coordination and cooperation across international organisations, and we welcome your office’s shared commitment to do this.

Special Representative, thank you for your report. We look forward to working with you in your new role and continuing to support your office in its impressive work to combat trafficking.