‘Slavery is here on our doorstep - we need to do something about it’
- Credit: Archant
“A dreadful, appalling and evil crime” - and it is happening on our doorstep.
That was the warning from Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore on Thursday who called on everyone in the county to combat the menace of modern slavery and people trafficking.
“We all have a responsibility to tackle this scourge,” he told a conference on the topic at Potters resort in Hopton.
Last year 11 suspected victims of trafficking were found in Suffolk and referred to the Salvation Army for help.
But police and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) know there are many more victims out there.
“All the research suggest there are far more victims in Suffolk than we are aware of,” said assistant chief constable Rachel Kearton.
The conference heard harrowing tales of an exploited car wash worker whose shoes had stuck his feet from the chemicals used in the wash, a farm worker whose arm was broken by his gangmaster, and a British girl sexually abused by different groups of men.
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The trafficked and traffickers are often from the same country, sharing friendships, business circles or even family ties.
Adrian Finbow, from the GLAA, told the conference: “Don’t for one minute think it is not happening here (in Norfolk and Suffolk) because it is. It is here on our doorstep and we need to do something about it.”
To tackle the problem, the Government gave the GLAA more powers from the start of this month to arrest suspects, as well as to investigate all forms of labour exploitation, whereas previously it had been restricted to the food and farming industries.
Three days after getting the new powers, the GLAA arrested a man in west Suffolk following a year-long investigation. That probe is continuing.
Diane Payne from the Salvation Army told the conference of a British girl who had been trafficked around homes to be sexually abused by large groups of men. “She wasn’t locked up, but she was a prisoner,” she said.
•Report suspicions of trafficking to Suffolk Police on 101 or via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
•You can also contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.