Beds Police: We’re doing pioneering work to tackle modern slavery
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As it was the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery yesterday, Bedfordshire Police have told us what they’re doing to tackle modern-day slavery in the county.
The focus of the day – which has taken place every year since 1949 – is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation.
A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “Sadly, we know that modern slavery exists in Bedfordshire and in many forms, including forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation and street crime.
“Someone whose travel has been arranged or facilitated with a view to them being exploited when they arrive at their destination is a victim of human trafficking. Anyone who perpetrates or aids in this practice is also guilty of modern slavery offences.
“Types of slavery include child trafficking or forced labour, where people are forced to work to pay off debts, work excessively long hours or for below the minimum wage.
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“Sexual exploitation is also a form of modern slavery, where victims are forced to perform non-consensual or abusive sexual acts against their will. And, while women and children make up the majority of victims, men can also be affected.
“Criminal exploitation is also an issue, where victims are forced into crimes such as cannabis cultivation or pick pocketing against their will. They might also have their benefits taken over by their exploiter.
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“Victims of domestic servitude are forced to carry out housework and domestic chores in private households with little or no pay, restricted movement, very limited or no free time and minimal privacy – often sleeping where they work.
“Exploitation such as modern slavery, county lines and child sexual exploitation are often interlinked and linked to gangs and organised crime groups.
“Here in Bedfordshire we are doing pioneering work to tackle modern slavery and other forms of exploitation. The Bedfordshire Anti-Slavery Partnership is co-chaired by ourselves and leading anti-slavery charity Unseen.
“This group brings together local authorities, law enforcement and national government agencies such as the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.
As well as delivering training, raising awareness and carrying out enforcement against the perpetrators, our main priority is always protecting and safeguarding victims.
“Our focus is always on working with victims and ensuring they have the choice to escape their situation – something that they are being deprived of as part of the exploitative situation.”
For more on the UN’s International Day for the Abolition of Slavery go to www.un.org/en/events/slaveryabolitionday/index.shtml.