Police launch unit to tackle trade in people
Tuesday October 3, 2006
Campaigners today called for the government to treat people trafficked into the country as victims of a crime rather than the perpetrators of an immigration offence, as the police opened the first national unit to tackle people-trading.
Based at a secret location in Sheffield, the national trafficking unit will bring together leading investigators, senior immigration officials, an expert from the Crown Prosecution Service and specialist groups that support victims.
Leading charities welcomed the opening of the unit, but said the government's emphasis on trafficking as an immigration crime meant they were overlooking vast numbers of people from EU countries who are trafficked into Britain. A recent report by Anti Slavery International found that the majority of people trafficked into Britain for forced labour entered the country legally from countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.
“If the government continues to look at this from an immigration standpoint only, they are going to miss these people,” said Beth Herzfeld, a spokeswoman for the group. “Traffickers use coercion, deception or the threat or use of violence to lure men, women and children into slavery. They control people through keeping their passports, demanding their labour in return for a debt or through the use of intimidation and threat.”
The police acknowledge that the unit is a first step towards making the investigation of trafficking a major issue for law enforcement agencies. “We want to try and set up a national minimum standard for the care of victims,” said Nick Kinsella, director of the unit. “But there are issues around the support available for them. There are only 30 beds in the country for trafficked women and we want to try and work with other agencies to find more accommodation.”
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