Two children rescued after West Yorkshire operation
13th July 2018
Two children thought to have been trafficked into the UK have been rescued following an operation involving West Yorkshire Police and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
GLAA investigators joined detectives, neighbourhood policing teams, and the charity Hope for Justice in visiting a number of commercial premises across the Calderdale district, which includes Halifax, in a four day operation from Monday 2 July until Thursday 5 July.
The 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.
Both children have no parents or relatives in the UK and police believe they were victims of human trafficking gangs.
They have entered the National Referral Mechanism for suspected victims of modern slavery and are in the care of social services.
Information and intelligence gathered as part of the operation is being shared with government agencies including Immigration Enforcement, the Department for Work and Pensions, and HMRC.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Shaw of West Yorkshire 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."
GLAA Director of Operations Ian Waterfield said: "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."
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and 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.
"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."