Police in Suffolk and Norfolk will be carrying out a variety of activities ahead of Anti-Slavery Day on Friday, 18 October, to highlight issues around human trafficking.
Under the national banner of Operation Eagle, officers in both counties will be raising awareness of human exploitation which often equates to modern-day slavery in 21st century Britain.
There are a variety of types of human trafficking – including sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, criminal exploitation and domestic servitude – and Anti-Slavery Day aims to raise awareness of these issues which are often hidden from public view but that are very real for some, even within Norfolk and Suffolk.
Safer Neighbourhood Teams across both counties will be carrying out local work to engage communities and talk to partner agencies who may to come into contact with those who are vulnerable to exploitation.
The idea is to identify individuals who may have been trafficked and to provide safe and appropriate accommodation, health and welfare support to those in need.
Human trafficking covers the recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of people by means of threat, use of force or other forms of coercion – including abduction, deception, psychological or physical abuse, the abuse of power or the giving or receiving of payments.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Mattin said; “For there to be an impact on human trafficking we need true multi-agency engagement and partnership working. Victims of human trafficking rarely come forward to police due to threats or intimidation, fear, or lack of understanding that they are victims, but it is important that we make it known there is support and advice available and that trafficking complaints will be taken seriously.”
Some people who have been trafficked may not consider themselves exploited. This may be as a consequence of cultural values, work ethics and levels of remuneration within their home country, while others may not be identified as victims of trafficking by those who encounter them.
DCI Mattin says; “Victims can be male or female, adult or child, and of any age or nationality, with gangs often targeting and recruiting the most vulnerable members of society to exploit them.
“We also need to have a better understanding of the issues around human trafficking so we do not criminalise the victims, and during this week we will also aim to educate our staff about some of the situations they may encounter.
“There will be pro-active work in both counties to identify those involved in trafficking, with a view to taking action as appropriate.”
Some examples of trafficking include –
· Cannabis factories, where a person trafficked into the country is then used as a gardener to mind cannabis crops being grown in domestic or business premises.
· Prostitution – where women are forced, either physically or through financial circumstances, to engage in sexual activity, often to pay off debts to those who have trafficked them.
· Forced labour where employees are effectively held prisoner by fear, financial circumstances or a lack of understanding of their rights – whether this be via unscrupulous gangmasters or as domestic servants.
In these situations individuals may have no days off, limited contact with family, limited social contact, lack of access to earnings, lack of access to medical care, a perception of being bonded by debt, threats being made to them or their family and be in a position of dependency.
The Salvation Army are the main provider of services and assistance to human trafficking victims. Find out more by visiting www.salvationarmy.org.uk/uki/Trafficking .
They have a 24-hour confidential Referral Helpline – 0300 303 8151 – available seven days a week for anyone who is looking for advice and support, or you can contact Norfolk or Suffolk Police direct by dialling the non-emergency number 101.