Fears over MET Human Trafficking Team closure

7 October 2009

In response to today’s reports that the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking team may be disbanded, Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International, said:

“Any decision to cut the team, even if there are serious financial pressures, is very dangerous given the considerable risks of trafficking associated with the Olympics. The hidden nature of the crime of trafficking means that it needs systematic and sustained investigation, particularly given the UK’s commitment under the Council of Europe Anti-Trafficking Convention to protect the victims of trafficking. The only people likely to benefit from the disbanding of the trafficking team are the traffickers themselves who will no longer have a dedicated unit disrupting their criminal activities.

“Clubs and Vice have experience of trafficking for sexual exploitation but their remit does not cover trafficking for forced labour or domestic servitude. Also as their current efforts cover all the other vices we would be concerned that conflicting priorities could be to the detriment to the victims of trafficking.

“The Human Trafficking team offers colleagues across the entire Met, and constabularies throughout the country, expertise on the incredibly complex issue of trafficking, a crime that ignores national borders and police jurisdictions. Based on conversations with senior Officers at the Met and feedback from police officers at local stations it is clear that the necessary understanding of the legal definitions of trafficking and the proper procedures in supporting victims has not yet spread throughout the force.”

Anti-Slavery International, along with NGO partners, has expressed its concerns of the proposed closure in a joint letter to the Met’s Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson.