Prison sentences handed down for the trafficking of young girls into the UK for forced marriage and exploitation are not strong enough to act as a deterrent, says UKIP’s Louise Bours.
A National Crime Agency report has indicated that in 2013 alone, 600 children had been identified as having been trafficked into the UK.*
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.
Ms Bours, MEP for the North West, 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.”