Authorities blind to the hidden crime of human trafficking in the Capital

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  • Just 36 of London’s 389 human trafficking cases have been identified by the Met this year
  • Under-threat Met police human trafficking unit is ‘vital’ to clamp down on London’s hidden slavery cases
  • Investigations could pay for themselves from recuperated proceeds of crime through specialist teams

There have been 1,057 potential victims of human trafficking* identified in the UK so far this year¹. London accounts for 39% of all cases (389) identified by local authorities, the Met and NGOs such as charities¹. Of London’s 389 cases, just 36 were picked up by the Met.

However, authorities are still blind to the hidden slavery taking place in everyday environments; on construction sites, mobile soup runs for the homeless, at cheap Chinese and Indian takeaways, in Vietnamese nail bars and domestic homes in our neighbourhoods.
A new report, ‘Shadow City – Exposing human trafficking in everyday London’, calls on the Met’s anti-trafficking unit (SCD9) to be urgently protected from further integration into other units (it has already merged with vice, fraud, and extradition). Additional human trafficking units should also be established in other police forces across the UK so SCD9 is not overstretched by being obliged to assist investigations outside of London.
It comes as evidence from social workers and charities in ‘Shadow City’, reveals that:

  • A North East London council refused to accept eye witness accounts from a social worker of predator gangs roaming outside the borough’s school gates
  • Police threatening to arrest a boy who was trafficked from the North to the South of England to be sexually abused. His parents were told that he was wasting police resource
  • Police told a Nigerian victim they couldn’t find any evidence on a suspected trafficker, yet a charity worker located the suspect with a simple online Google search
  • A Chinese boy, who was believed to have been trafficked for sex, was advised by the local authority to look on Gumtree when he asked for their help to move out of the borough
  • A trafficked homeless man who escaped was turned away from three London police stations

Andrew Boff, Conservative London Assembly Member and author of the report ‘Shadow City’ said:

“All the evidence I have suggests that human trafficking is a very complex crime with many hidden and informal cases taking place in everyday environments such as domestic trafficking of Nigerian children under the guise of informal fostering, the exploitation of Latin Americans in the au pair industry, and the sex grooming of British boys on the internet. An overstretched Anti-Trafficking unit and figure driven culture means police are focusing on large scale organised cases and neglecting the informal trafficking cases that take longer to find, but are sometimes more serious. If we continue to lose the expertise and specialisms of these dedicated trafficking officers within the Met, the cultural subtleties behind the case will be missed and traffickers will continue to largely evade conviction. Of course budgets are tight, but if the money made in trafficking exploits is recuperated through the use of specialist teams, then these investigations could pay for themselves.”

The report’s key recommendations also include:

  • Human trafficking becoming part of the core syllabus for training new police recruits, Special Points of Contact (SPOCS) to be established in every borough’s police force, and training for social workers, teachers, health professionals and benefit agency staff on how to spot the signs of trafficking and who to consult if they have concerns.



Click here to download the report

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*The official international definition of human trafficking according to the UN Palermo Protocol: The recruitment, transportation and harbouring of a person by threat, force, coercion, abduction, deception, or abuse of their vulnerability with the aim to exploit them.
¹Potential trafficked victims information: London, United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre and Serious Organised Crime Agency. Figures for 1st January – 31st August 2013
– See Andrew Boff’s previous report on prostitution in London ‘Silence on Violence’

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