23 May 2018
Dozens of potential victims of slavery have been safeguarded following the latest nationwide multi-agency drive to tackle modern slavery.
The week of co-ordinated action, which was led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), started on Monday 14 May and focused on labour exploitation.
It was the latest strand of Operation Aidant, the NCA-led law enforcement response to modern slavery and human trafficking.
The NCA and GLAA worked with police forces from across the UK to co-ordinate or support a range of enforcement activity targeting those involved in modern slavery-related criminality. This included:
- Sussex Police (right), working with local partners, arresting five people in Hastings on suspicion of modern slavery offences and safeguarding eight potential victims as part of an investigation into allegations of exploitation by an employment agency supplying workers into care homes;
- Warrants executed by Kent Police at 11 addresses in Folkestone, Dover and Lydd, arresting four people and safeguarding 12 potential victims. Two of those arrested have since been charged with modern slavery offences;
- Wiltshire Police and the GLAA identifying 26 potential victims following a range of targeted checks in Salisbury;
- Cambridgeshire Police and the GLAA safeguarding two potential victims and arresting one suspect following a visit to a car wash in Ely;
Border Force worked with the NCA and a range of government agencies to carry out additional safeguarding checks on at-risk individuals arriving into the UK from eastern Europe at a number of ports and airports. That led to:
- the identification of three Romanian potential victims who were suspected of arriving in the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation at Manchester Airport;
- heightened checks on incoming flights from Tirana and Bucharest at Gatwick;
- NCA officers, alongside Border Force and the GLAA offering advice to at least 140 people entering the UK via Channel Ports in mini-buses;
- the safeguarding of a 14-year-old girl from Romania travelling in a mini-bus at UK immigration controls in northern France;
- a Romanian man identified with no money or knowledge of where he was going, also at controls in Calais.
The enforcement activity was backed up by a range of prevention work, targeting those at risk. This included:
- videos and posts on social media in English, Polish, Romanian and Slovakian helping people spot the signs of exploitation and giving potential victims advice on what to do;
- City of London Police visiting 28 building sites across the Square Mile to provide advice to employees and site managers;
- Border Force and NCA officers, working with GLAA and Devon and Cornwall Police, carrying out safeguarding checks on a number of maritime vessels in South Devon. On one fishing boat three Filipino men were found to be working illegally without visa documentation. They will be returned home but the boat’s skipper was notified that he faces a potential Home Office fine of up to £60,000;
- Specialist NCA modern slavery officers visiting the Devon County Show to offer advice to those in the agricultural sector.
NCA Deputy Director Roy McComb said:
“This co-ordinated week of activity aimed to disrupt and build intelligence on the criminal networks involved in labour exploitation, but also to raise awareness of the issues around modern slavery for workers .
“As well as the enforcement activity that has seen dozens of potential victims safeguarded, we have also aimed to speak to those at risk of falling into exploitation and help them understand the issues.
“This approach is important, because this is a crime that affects the vulnerable, and often victims don’t recognise themselves as such until it is too late.”
Ian Waterfield, Director of Operations for the GLAA, said:
“The approach taken this week with the country’s law enforcement agencies working together to target labour exploitation, demonstrates the united determination we all have to eradicate slavery and exploitation from our communities.
“Though we have had a week of action to highlight the issue, the GLAA and others are involved in these type of activities every single day.”
Information from the public is vital in the fight against modern slavery. To report your concerns call us on 101. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 999 straight away.
You can also report anonymously via the national Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.