Police forces in the North West have come together as part of the largest modern slavery and human trafficking week of action the region has ever seen.
Greater Manchester Police, Cheshire Constabulary, Merseyside Police, North Wales Police, Lancashire Constabulary and Cumbria Constabulary have joined forces to send a very clear message out to traffickers that they are not welcome in the region.
Throughout the week (17 – 21 October) police will be working alongside partner organisations such as Immigration, Environmental Health, HMRC, Border Force, NHS, DWP and STOP THE TRAFFIK to rescue vulnerable people, target offenders and educate the public.
Officers across Greater Manchester will carry out more than 100 multiagency visits and warrants in order to make modern slavery and human trafficking a thing of the past.
Throughout the week, staff will host a series of events at supermarkets, shopping centres, community venues and Manchester Airport to raise awareness of modern slavery and talk to people about how they can spot the signs.
Victims that are rescued during the week will be taken to a reception centre, which is being run by the British Red Cross. Specially trained staff will protect them from further harm and provide them with much-needed care, support and rehabilitation.
Since the beginning of last year, Greater Manchester Police have recorded 163 crimes of modern slavery.
During the same period, 151 victims have been referred to the national referral mechanism.
Modern slavery takes many forms but some of the most common are sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. Victims – both foreign national and British citizens – are forced to work in poor conditions and against their will in many different sectors including brothels, cannabis farms, nail bars, car washes, agriculture, construction, and even within people’s homes.
Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson, Head of Crime said: “People think that trafficking was abolished many years ago but sadly it is still a huge problem and happening on our doorsteps.
“In 2015 we set up a dedicated modern slavery unit and during that time we’ve rescued victims from some of the most horrific and unimaginable conditions
“Behind every crime there is a person who is stuck in a cycle of suffering, misery and control.
“We all have a role to play in tackling this hideous crime and I urge people to take an extra look around and ask themselves whether everything looks and feels ok. If you suspect something isn’t right, please trust your instincts and pick up the phone – it might be nothing, but one phone call could be all it takes to change somebody’s life for the better and ensure justice is done.”
Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “Greater Manchester is leading the drive to end modern slavery, targeting slave drivers and saving vulnerable people from a lifetime of suffering. But we are determined to do more to eradicate slavery. By keeping up the pressure of those who traffic and exploit human beings as commodities, stripping them of their basic rights, we are sending a strong message that slavery is not tolerated in our communities and the plight of victims will not be ignored.
“We also want local people to be the eyes and ears of their communities and not turn a blind eye to this horrific crime. If you see something suspicious please speak out and help us root out slavery in all its forms.”
Andy Peers, British Red Cross Head of Independent Living and Crisis Response in the North of England said:
“At the request of Greater Manchester Police, the British Red Cross is providing support at a rest centre for people recovered by police from trafficking in the county.
“Our highly-trained staff and volunteers will be providing emotional and practical support on a 24-hour basis, throughout the week. This will include providing food and toiletries, along with any social and welfare support required.
“Nearly 21 million people worldwide are victims of modern day slavery. The British Red Cross is committed to continuing to provide support to those in need, alongside its partner agencies.”
Hannah Flint, Modern Slavery Network Coordinator at STOP THE TRAFFIK, said:
“At STOP THE TRAFFIK we believe in the power of positive networks, community and partnerships to protect vulnerable people from the crime of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery.
“By working together across the city to raise awareness and encourage people to report concerns to Crimestoppers or the police, we hope to see many more people rescued from their desperate circumstances.