The UK Government will deploy specialist anti-slavery teams at the border to help identify and protect victims of modern slavery, Home Office Minister Karen Bradley has said.
The Border Force-led teams will be based at major ports and tasked with identifying potential victims of trafficking, disrupting organised crime gangs, and collecting intelligence on trafficked adults and children.
The first specialist team will be deployed at Heathrow on 1st April, replacing and extending Operation Paladin which was set up in 2004 with the Metropolitan Police Service to provide expertise and protection for children at risk across London.
Border Force officers at Heathrow will maintain these close links with the Metropolitan Police and Local Children’s services to ensure victims are safeguarded by the relevant agencies.
The new teams will be rolled out to Gatwick and Manchester later in the year with further ports to be identified over the coming months.
The specialist teams will among other tasks cover safeguarding for adult victims of trafficking as well as child victims.
“Our front-line Border Force officers are aware that they could be the first authority figure in the UK to have contact with a potential victim of modern slavery,” Ms Bradley said. “Their role is vital in identifying and protecting victims and ensuring there is no easy route into the UK for traffickers.”
Once identified, child victims of trafficking are to be provided with specialist support under a new scheme being trialled in a number of local authorities from April. The new system will ensure each child victim is allocated an independent specialist advocate with expertise in trafficking to act as a single point of contact providing dedicated support and guidance.