There have been 24 arrests and seven victims rescued in the last two days, as Greater Manchester’s Programme Challenger joined partners from across the region to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking.
Officers have also seized over £300,000 in cash and cheques as well as counterfeit items including stamps, DVDs and clothes.
Three of those arrested have been charged in relation to modern slavery offences as part of a week of enforcement and safeguarding against modern slavery, which falls as Greater Manchester Police and its partners mark one year since the establishment of a dedicated modern slavery unit.
The Modern Slavery Unit was set up in March 2015 as a specialist approach to tackling modern slavery and human trafficking. In the year that has followed, 89 victims of slavery have been located and safeguarded, almost a 900% rise since 2012. Seventy arrests have been made and convictions are now being sought under the new Modern Slavery Act which came into force last year.
Officers and support staff have increased patrols in key areas, visited business and residential premises of interest and attended local community events to share information on the warning signs of modern slavery and advice on what to do if you or someone you know is a victim.
A number of warrants are being executed across Greater Manchester. Victims located are being taken to a reception centre where they will be given support and made safe from further harm. The reception centre is staffed throughout the week by the British Red Cross, and its staff will work with any victims to rehabilitate and provide care in the crucial first days after their rescue.
The second week of action in six months has seen police, councils and agencies such as Immigration, Environmental Health, NHS, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue, MASH and DWP working together to safeguard vulnerable people, educate the public and target offenders.
Up until 7pm Tuesday 8 March, multi-agency teams had visited 21 houses, nine car washes, five brothels and over 20 other businesses, including factories, nail bars, takeaways and restaurants across Greater Manchester. There have also been 24 arrests for offences including trafficking, servitude and immigration, and six victims located and safeguarded at the dedicated reception centre.
GMP Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson said:
“We have had an extremely successful start to the modern slavery week of action, locating vulnerable people and removing them from the intimidation and control they have suffered at the hands of their exploiters.
“Slavery is happening to men, women and children across Greater Manchester, right under our noses. They are offered a better life, a good job and financial security for their families. The reality is often one of violence, intimidation and squalor.
“Modern slavery is much more subtle than that consigned to our history books. There are often no physical chains; rather victims are frequently bound to perpetrators by coercion and control, and often with no money and passport to leave.
“Slavery is everywhere. Our local communities often hold the key to this information and I am calling on them to be our eyes and ears and let us know when they see something suspicious. With their help, we can give these people their lives back.”
Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said:
“We’re making it incredibly difficult for slavers and people traffickers to do their business in our cities and towns. I want them to hear the message loud and clear that the people of Greater Manchester won’t turn a blind eye to their abhorrent treatment of human beings as commodities.
“Together with GMP and Programme Challenger, I have funded Stop The Traffik to lead a network of voluntary organisations and charities who can support victims of this heinous crime, providing bedding, clothing, and care packages to vulnerable people who have nothing to call their own.
“Whether in private homes or illicit businesses; we will root out slavery in all its forms, bringing offenders to justice, and offering protection and support to those people abused and stripped of their human rights and freedoms.”
Amongst the support agencies working within the Modern Slavery Unit, Stop the Traffik is an organisation working globally to prevent human trafficking, prosecute human traffickers, and protect human trafficking victims.