We – as a force – recognise the pain and suffering that human trafficking causes – and that’s why we’re supporting the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Every year thousands of people are brought into to the United Kingdom by organised crime groups (OCGs), who look to take advantage of those less fortunate than themselves. The intention of the gangs is often to exploit those arriving in the UK for their own financial gain.
Those arriving in the UK are often found to be fleeing conflict or persecution in their own country and are unaware that they are being trafficked.
“What we must recognise is that those arriving in the UK are not the criminals,” explains Andy Cox, who is part of the force’s Organised Immigration Crime and Modern Slavery team. “The focus of both Leicestershire Police and our partners within other organisations is to identify those who are behind the trafficking and bring them to justice.
“They’re not doing it because they want to help people who are desperate – like any criminal, they’re doing it for personal or financial gain. They’re exploiting someone who has nowhere else to turn and by doing so are putting a human life at serious risk.”
Types of human trafficking can include:
Sex trafficking: working as prostitutes, in pornography, phone sex lines, internet chat rooms, escort agencies
Forced labour: working for low pay, or no pay, in poor conditions with threats of punishment
Servants: working at their employer's home for low pay, or no pay, where they are often abused and cannot leave
Forced crime: begging, pick-pocketing, selling drugs, bag snatching
Organ harvesting: trafficking people to sell their organs for transplant
Children may also be trafficked into the UK under the premise they will receive an education or be given a job – but on arrival are prevented from going to school and instead are forced to work.
Earlier this year, the force’s Roads Policing Unit (RPU) joined forces with teams from Immigration Enforcement and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to identify vehicles of interest on the M1.
Our operation to tackle human trafficking
The RPU identified vehicles of interest, which were then escorted into the services at Leicester Forest East so the driver could be spoken to and information gathered about where the lorry was travelling to and from. The DVSA also checked each vehicle was roadworthy.
“A total of 18 vehicles were checked during the operation,” says Andy. “It’s well known that victims of trafficking travel to the UK in vehicles such as lorries and by being proactive, we are hoping to locate them as soon as possible so that they can receive help and be safeguarded before they come to any further harm. While we did not locate anyone during the operation, it’s just part of our ongoing work to tackle organised trafficking.”
Andy says that as part of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, it is important that communities across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are aware of how to spot the signs that someone may be a victim.
He adds: “Those who have been trafficked could appear scruffy in their appearance as well as perhaps injured or malnourished. Their behaviour may also seem strange – they could be anxious, afraid or unable to make eye contact with you.
“In a work environment, they could be seen working long hours or have unsuitable clothing or the wrong equipment for the job. They could be a victim of controlling behaviour, such as being closely instructed by someone else or being picked up and dropped off at the same time and place every day.
“In their home life they could be prohibited access to money and identification documents or living in a poorly-maintained and overcrowded property.
“If we all familiarise ourselves with the signs, then we can tackle trafficking together.”