In 2021 you’d assume that everyone is free to live their life, but sadly not everyone is able to and there are ruthless criminals exploiting people for their own gain.
Today we are supporting World Day against Trafficking in Persons to raise awareness of human trafficking, increase opportunities to prevent human trafficking, and to safeguard victims who are caught up in this despicable trade.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, harbouring, or movement of people by means such as force, fraud, coercion or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. It does not have to cross a border; it could be happening locally.
Detective Superintendent Lee Morton who leads a dedicated team of specialist officers in our response to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking (MSHT) said:
“Each year, thousands of people of all ages end up in the hands of traffickers; it could be because they are promised better life opportunities elsewhere, that they can help make their families better off or they are forced into a life of labour, prostitution or drugs.
“It’s our job to protect and help those people and to ensure any person or organised group enforcing human trafficking are dealt with quickly, robustly and ultimately stopped.”
The number of recorded cases of MSHT are increasing as victims become more confident to report their situation to us with the belief that they will be helped.
Last year we investigated 361 MSHT cases, with 315 victims receiving referrals for support; for us, their immediate safety and welfare is critical.
Det Supt Morton added:
“Anyone who is forced to commit crimes are victims, and we will treat them as victims.
“My officers are specialists, trained to lead complex and sensitive investigations who will ensure we provide the highest level of safeguarding to those most vulnerable and to tackle and disband any organised criminal groups that believe they can operate under the radar here in Essex.
“The team will continue to gather intelligence and take robust action against anyone or any group that commits human trafficking offences.”
We are also notified of concerns through referrals from other agencies and we work closely with partners and charitable organisations such as Justice and Care to help victims escape, offer protection and support and help them make a better life for themselves.
Signs that someone may be being trafficked include: they are constantly anxious and displaying behaviours that are concerning; they don’t have access to their passports or have them seized by an employer; they have signs physical or psychological abuse; they look malnourished and shabby or live in poor conditions.
The MSHT, set up in 2019, are supported by Local Policing Teams who hold proactive operations four times a year, going out into the community to car washes, nail bars or anywhere a victim of MSHT might be found and reporting that crime. It also provides an opportunity for a victim to approach us and raise any concerns they might have or ask for our help.
Detective Chief Inspector Steven Nelson, from MSHT, issued this appeal to anyone who is or thinks they may be a victim of human trafficking:
“Modern slavery or human trafficking is illegal, full stop.
“Exploitation of people for commercial or personal gain is absolutely and completely wrong and we are here to make it stop.
“If you are being sexually exploited, tied into domestic servitude, forced into labour you don’t want to do, and being forced to commit criminal acts, then you are being exploited. But don’t feel conflicted because they claim to be your friend, and don’t feel because your boss has provided you with a job and some accommodation, that you cannot escape and it will always be that way.
“We can help, even in cases where English isn’t your first language. Our dedicated officers will arrange a translator so you can speak to us and explain what is happening to you.
“Let us help you and put a stop to human trafficking and exploitation.”
If you have concerns that someone is being trafficked or know of anyone organising human trafficking, call us on 101, or in an emergency call 999.