Human trafficking has been defined as ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation’. The definition continues to define exploitation by stating that it ‘shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or removal of organs’.
Human smuggling is characterised by illegal entry and international movement but is a voluntary act and doesn’t involve the exploitation of the smuggled person. There is not likely to be any coercion or violence from those assisting in the smuggling.
Smuggling facilitates entry into the UK but the immigrants concerned are usually complicit in the offence whereas with trafficking, the person who is trafficked has little choice as to what happens to them.
One of the most serious offences of trafficking is trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and such offences carry a maximum sentence of imprisonment of 14 years. What’s more, the offence is known as a ‘lifestyle offence’ under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and will therefore attract confiscation proceedings upon conviction.