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UN World Day Against Trafficking highlighted by Police Commissioner

POLICE and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite is today (Tuesday 30th July) calling on members of the public to spot the signs of human trafficking and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police.

Victims of human trafficking or modern slavery often show signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, and carry out irregular activity at homes or addresses. They often have poor living conditions and work long hours for little or no pay.

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, victims of trafficking and modern day slavery are able to receive support from Victim and Witness Care Co-ordinators, funded by the Commissioner. Victim Care Coordinators join police officers and multi-agency colleagues on police operations and checks on houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs). Their input has changed the way these visits are approached; treating people as victims first, not criminals, educating them of their rights and supporting them to seek help.

Support offered includes liaison between agencies and service providers and/or signposting or referral to locally commissioned services. It can also include housing or financial management and support to return to victims home countries.

In 2017/18 a total of 252 victims accessed support.

One of the posts is job-shared by a Lithuanian and a Romanian-speaking member of staff enabling the wider Victim and Witness Hub to support both nationalities in their native language and many others through common languages.

Case study: Peter (not his real name) came to the UK from Lithuania after being promised work and accommodation however once he arrived in the country, he had his passport taken. A bank account was opened in his name without him having access. He was made to work long hours but only allowed a small amount of money per week from his wages. If he wanted to leave the house he had to tell the exploiters exactly where he was going and what he was doing, and if he didn’t, he would be beaten up. He managed to jump onto a random bus, which happened to be going to Peterborough. Once there, he slept rough until the Victim Care Coordinators became aware of him. He was put up in a hotel and provided with clothes and toiletries. The Care Coordinators were able to deal with the bank on his behalf and get to his last wage before it was taken by the exploiters.

“When he came into contact with us, he was completely broken and kept saying that he had nothing left to live for,” Care Coordinator, Alina Jablonske explains, “the beatings that he was subjected to were humiliating and the loss of freedom affected him so much that it was too much for him to deal with.”

P has now chosen to go back home. Alina adds: “We arranged his travel and stayed with him until he got on the plane. Once back in Lithuania, P told me that the fact he was able to have support from a Lithuanian speaker helped build his confidence and restore his faith.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite said: “Throughout the whole support relationship, the Care Coordinators advocate on their victim’s behalf in a manner which empowers them to make their own choices. They provide specialist expertise to police officers and staff to make sure migrant victims of trafficking are dealt with sensitively. We all have a part to play in stopping this exploitation from happening. By reporting suspicions you could be saving lives.”

DCI Alan Page, the Constabulary’s tactical lead for modern slavery and human trafficking, said:

“Tackling modern slavery is a force priority and while we’re working hard to address it, we can’t do it alone. Increasing information in modern day slavery and human trafficking is key to protecting the vulnerable. We work closely with partners, including the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

“Slavery still exists in Cambridgeshire and it’s important that people are aware of the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking, and report any concerns to us.”