Anti-Slavery Day: How we're working to safeguard victims entering Essex
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Tens of thousands of people enter Essex every day using Stansted Airport, our ports, roads and rail network.
Our transport hubs are vital for our day-to-day lives, but are also used by criminals to traffic people against their will.
Modern slavery sees individuals trapped in jobs where they may be paid little or no money, are unable to move around freely because they have their documents taken from them and have no means of escape.
They may be threatened with violence, forced into debt they will never be able to pay back, or threatened with deportation by those exploiting them.
Many of the victims are attempting to escape poverty and support their families.
The two most common forms of modern slavery are forced labour – often working on farms or construction sites - and sexual exploitation, where men and women are coerced into prostitution.
In 2019, there were 10,000 potential victims of slavery identified in the UK.
To mark Anti-Slavery Day (Monday 18 October), officers have been working alongside partner agencies at Stansted Airport to alert travellers to the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) and tell them who to contact if they suspect it’s taking place.
This follows on from Project Aidant, which saw coordinated police work at Stansted, Harwich Port and in and around the M25 where automatic numberplate recognition was used to track vehicles suspected of involvement in MSHT. Lorry drivers were also leafletted at Birchanger Services.
Officers and Border Force at Stansted Airport on Anti-Slavery Day
Detective Constable Mark Ghosh is a field intelligence officer at Stansted and the force’s lead for MSHT.
Mark works alongside the Border Force, the Home Office, and the anti-slavery charities Justice and Care and A21 to safeguard victims.
Mark’s team regularly meet incoming flights to and speak to passengers who, either by their behaviour or the possessions they bring into the country, display some of the tell-tall signs of being controlled.
He said: “Modern slavery happens is a lot closer to home and more often than people may think. A common theme with sexual exploitation is that the victim has met a boyfriend or girlfriend online through Instagram or Snapchat, and has only spoken to them once on FaceTime.
“They have one conversation with this person that purports to be in love with them and suddenly they’ve ended up in the UK for the first time with a phone number on a piece of paper. That happens surprisingly often.
“With forced labour, we tend to find the recruitment is done through social media and the victims knows nothing about the pay or where they are meant to be staying.
“But potential victims will not engage with us unless we explain what is going on. We’re there to help them, not to question their immigration status.”
Mark quoted an example of a woman from Eastern Europe who chose not to engage at the airport but later told police she’d been trafficked.
Mark said: “A female came to our attention on an inbound flight. It was winter but she was wearing only a small amount of clothing. She also appeared confused and dazed.
“A male appeared next to her and it became immediately clear that he had control of her documents and was doing all the speaking for her.
“We engaged with her and she said she’d met the man online and was in love with him. They’d been travelling across Europe and had come to settle down in the UK.
PC Kai Ishaq with the information distributed at Harwich Port
“She had no phone, no credit or debit card, her family weren’t aware she’d travelled to the UK and she didn’t know where she was going. When Border Force searched her bag, she only had lingerie and stilettos.
“As a result, we took her back to Border Force, explained we were there to safeguard her and explain why we were concerned about her travelling with this man.”
The woman decided to continue her journey, but a follow-up call from Metropolitan Police officers was arranged at the address she headed to.
“They (the officers) visited the address several hours later,” Mark said. “The man was seen discarding drugs which gave them the power to enter the property. At that point she asked her help, and said she was being trafficked.
“Not only did she ask for help, she identified another brothel where there were other people working who were then safeguarded.”
It was later revealed the man, a Romanian, was trying to pay off his godson’s christening by trafficking the woman around Europe. He was convicted of controlling prostitution and trafficking, and deported.
If you have any information about human trafficking or modern slavery offences taking place, please tell us. Call 101, or 999 in an emergency, or report online by using the tab at the top of this page.
Alternatively, you can contact independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or https://crimestoppers-uk.org For more information about how to spot the signs of trafficking, find out more at on our MSHT page.