LONDON, Feb 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human trafficking victims who are pregnant or have children are routinely overlooked by the British authorities, who do not recognise them as being a particularly vulnerable group, a group of charities said on Tuesday.
Between a quarter and a half of trafficking victims in Britain are pregnant or have children with them in the U.K. or in their home countries, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, whose members include Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International and UNICEF UK, said in a report.
It said the government had failed to provide them with safe accommodation, childcare and specialist healthcare in a systematic way.
For example, a lack of childcare meant that some women had to bring their children to interviews with the Home Office (interior ministry), in which they are expected to recount their abuse as part of the process of seeking asylum or being formally identified as a victim of human trafficking.
The report said little research has been carried out into the impact of a trafficking ordeal on a mother, and that for some trafficked women, pregnancy as a result of rape could be a source of more trauma.
"Having children or being pregnant adds an extra layer of vulnerability for people who have been trafficked, yet the UK's response is blind to this," the report's author, Vicky Brotherton, said in a statement.
Karen Bradley, the minister for preventing abuse, exploitation and crime, said the government was committed to protecting all potential victims and providing support for victims in their recovery.
Once identified, victims undergo an initial assessment so that the support and assistance on offer is tailored to their circumstances, Bradley said in a statement.
The number of people identified as potential victims of human trafficking in Britain rose by 21 percent in 2014 to 3,309 - about one in five of them children. But the government estimates that up to 13,000 people in Britain are victims of modern slavery.
Last year, the country passed anti-slavery legislation amid concerns not enough was being done to stop modern slavery, a scourge affecting tens of millions of people worldwide.
The Modern Slavery Act raised the maximum jail sentence for traffickers to life from 14 years, gave police greater powers to deal with criminal gangs and introduced measures to protect people at risk of being enslaved.
"Despite the passing of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, the UK is still far away from having a robust anti-slavery response with protection of the victim at the heart of it," said Klara Skrivankova, Europe Programme and Advocacy Co-ordinator at Anti-Slavery International.
(Writing by Katie Nguyen, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.