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Police ask public to report signs of labour exploitation

Members of the public in the West Mercia police area are being asked to play their part in helping to stop vulnerable people being exploited for their labour.

Assistant Chief Constable Martin Evans said: "People need to be aware that modern slavery is something that can happen anywhere, and that they can help us to tackle this serious and brutal crime.

"While reports of modern slavery and human trafficking in West Mercia are relatively low - 45 incidents reported to us in the year to December 2018 - this is largely thought to be because it remains quite a hidden crime. This is why we need the public to be aware of the issue and to report any concerns to us."

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The types of work which could be involved in labour exploitation in the West Mercia force area include warehousing, logistics, agriculture, food processing and packing, car washes and barbers.

Labour exploitation involves people being forces to work for little or no pay. They may be hit or threatened, denied access to their passport and made to live in poor and overcrowded conditions.

Signs to look for include:

  • Not having enough food or money to buy food
  • Being scared and alone
  • Always wearing the same clothes, may not be suitable for work
  • Overcrowded accommodation
  • Living and working at same location
  • Unusual travel and work times

During 2018, West Mercia Police referred 66 potential victims of modern slavery into the UK National Referral Mechanism which is a national framework to ensure they receive the appropriate support. Referrals to the NRM can only be made by authorised agencies known as First Responders. Authorised agencies in the UK are the police force, the UK border force, Home Office immigration and Visas, Social Services and certain non-governmental organisations.

PCC John Campion said: "I promised our communities I would work to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, and that is at the heart of this issue. While West Mercia is a safe area, we are not immune to the problem of human trafficking and modern slavery, which often happens away from public view. We can all play an important role in exposing the issue and tackling it. I will continue to support our police and partners to ensure everything possible is being done to make that happen".

If you know someone who needs help, please call the police on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) on 0800 432 0804.

Notes to editors

Case study:

After acting on intelligence from the public, a Bulgarian man and woman were arrested in Telford in two separate joint police and GLAA operations in July 2018 on suspicion of exploiting Bulgarian workers. They were both subsequently handed Labour Market Enforcement Undertakings (LMEUs) by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

This is an agreement to restore and maintain compliance with UK legislation. The agreement will set out what needs to be done, by a specific date, and how. It can be removed if compliance is achieved.  Alternatively, it can remain in force for a period of 2 years, even if the specific conditions have been met, if there is considered to be a continuing risk. This new sanction under the Immigration Act 2016 came into effect in November 2016.

GLAA Director of Operations Ian Waterfield said: "In both of these cases, officers acted following intelligence that the suspects had been financially exploiting Bulgarian workers who had recently arrived in the UK.

"This demonstrates the important role the public can play in spotting the signs of labour exploitation and reporting it."

The role of the GLAA is to protect all workers in the UK from exploitation.

For more information about the GLAA click here https://www.gla.gov.uk/who-we-are/

Please find below awareness videos from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority GLAA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR2S7nwIKOk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAMmFCRdwH8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9tN6FM28ws

Published 10/04/19