Detectives led by Detective Sergeant Michael Richmond from Calderdale CID joined the Halifax and Calder Valley Neighbourhood Policing Teams and representatives from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the charity, Hope for Justice to visit a number of commercial premises across the District in a four day long operation. It started on Monday 2 July and ended on Thursday 5 July.
The two children, both aged 17 (one had been in the country since he was 15) were located in two stores where they were present with staff who were working.
Neither child has any parents or relatives in the UK and it is thought they were the victims of Human Trafficking Gangs.
Both have entered the National Referral Mechanism for suspected victims of modern slavery and are in the care of Social Services. Children’s social care has secured safe placements for the young people as emergency childcare.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Shaw of Calderdale District Police, said:
“Human trafficking is an evil crime which trades in human misery.
“We have been speaking to the staff at the various premises who have shared some horrific stories of being moved across continents, staying in migrant camps and travelling to the UK in the backs of trucks.
“Many have said that they felt they were under the control of organised crime groups. The two children we have rescued appear to be happy to have been taken out of such an environment – some indicated they were being paid less than the minimum wage and that their earnings were topped up with food and accommodation
“To show the lengths the criminals will go to we found one victim who had been branded to indicate she would forever be the ‘property’ of a particular gang.
“Throughout the operation we spoke to 36 members of staff at the eight premises about their immigration statuses. Once it was confirmed that there was no suspicion that they had been trafficked, five males were arrested for being in the UK illegally. They were subsequently passed on to Immigration Enforcement for further action.
“I would urge residents who use businesses that are cash only to think twice about where their money is going and what it is funding.”
As well as rescuing the two victims the team gathered information and intelligence which is being shared with Government agencies including Immigration Enforcement, HMRC and DWP.
DCI Shaw added,
“The gangmasters behind this vile trade may be organised – but so are we – by working together on operations like this and by sharing information with relevant partners we can make a real difference.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner and National Lead on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said:
“How anyone can treat other humans in such an appalling way is beyond me, however, stopping it from taking place is not beyond us as this fantastic multi partnership operation has shown.
“We are working tirelessly to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery by the creation of our dedicated Unit, raising awareness and improving partnership working not just in West Yorkshire but also nationally recognised.
“Everyone can help in the fight against this vile crime. General indicators of human trafficking or modern slavery can include signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, poor living conditions and working long hours for little or no pay. If you have any suspicions, please report them to the police or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 who can provide specialist support and advice.”
GLAA Director of Operations Ian Waterfield.
“This operation demonstrates the importance of the partnerships we have with colleagues in the police, government and charities who are all determined to stamp out these repugnant practices.
“We will not stop in our pursuit of those criminals who believe it is acceptable to profit from using vulnerable people as commodities, often in some of the most brutal ways imaginable.
“There are many ways to report suspected cases of modern slavery, including by contacting our own dedicated intelligence team on 0800 432 0804. Your information counts and by working together we can put an end to modern slavery and labour abuse for good.”
Neil Wain, International Programme Director at Hope for Justice and former Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said:
“Traffickers often prevent victims from seeking help through the use of fear as a weapon, and manipulating them to distrust the authorities – in particular the police and government. As an independent charity with experience working closely with victims of modern slavery, Hope for Justice is able to build trust with victims so they feel safe to share what has happened to them. We are committed to working with West Yorkshire Police and other forces to encourage victims to access vital help and start the process of recovery.”