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Move to give life sentences to human traffickers
8:00pm Sunday 20th October 2013 in News
HOME Secretary Theresa May marked yesterday’s ‘Anti-Slavery Day’ by announcing life sentences for the worst cases of human trafficking. The move followed last week’s conviction of a Burnley shop worker for repeatedly raping an Eastern European woman he ‘bought’ in Bradford. Bill Jacobs looks at what is being done in East Lancashire to tackle a growing crime.
*LANCASHIRE police were surprised at the number of leads on human trafficking supplied to them as a result of the case against Azam Khan of Brougham Street for imprisoning and repeatedly raping a 20-year-old Slovakian girl.
She was kept above a corner shop after being ‘bought’ from people traffickers and forced into a sham marriage.
Detectives in Lancashire and West Yorkshire discovered an international human trafficking operation as a result.
Khan, 34, is now in the second week of a 12-year jail sentence.
He, his aunt Nusrat of Colne Road, Burnley and three co-conspirators are serving a total of more than 30 years imprisonment between them.
Since the trial, calls have kept coming to Lancashire Police about human trafficking in the county and Emma Kehoe of the North-West Crown Prosecution Service has promised: “We will continue to tackle this form of modern-day slavery.”
Nationally there has been a 25 per cent rise in the number of such cases discovered.
In 2012, 1,186 victims were referred to the authorities, compared with 946 victims in 2011.
Trafficking from Albania, Poland and Lithuania has seen the biggest rise with many other victims coming from Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and China.
Eastern European women are most likely to be used as prostitutes or domestic servitude, men for construction work.
In July, East Lancashire’s South Asian community was urged to help prevent the trafficking of 100,000 young women from their home countries for domestic slavery, garment sweatshops and sexual exploitation.
Detective chief inspector Sue Cawley, of Lancashire Police’s public protection unit, said: “Across the country individuals are being trafficked to be exploited for sex or labour and Lancashire is no exception to that.
“Last week we saw the successful conviction of individuals connected to trafficking a young Slovakian woman into Burnley and further investigations into other types of forced labour criminality are taking place across the county.
“Because Azam Khan’s conviction as part of ‘Operation Sprint’ we have received a number of calls about human trafficking and human slavery we are investigation.
“This is a crime that affects many communities - South Asian, Eastern European, Chinese (as with the Morecambe Bay cockle picking tragedy in 2004) and cases such as the one in Bedford last year where travellers kept British nationals with drug and alcohol problems as slaves.
“This is a high-value, low risk crime where the traffickers do not care who their victims are and often take them from their own communities.
“We are not yet aware of the full problem in Lancashire but are determined to find out and crackdown on it.”
A spokeswoman for the Salvation Army, which works across the country, including in East Lancashire, to help victims, said: “This is not just a problem in other countries. Modern day slavery exists in our own, comfortable, local communities.”
She asked East Lancashire residents to ‘be alert for the signs that someone you living nearby or working in a shop, on a farm or a building site, is not there of their own free will; looks underfed, perhaps unwell or injured; frightened; not communicating; living in overcrowded housing.’ Victims and concerned people can ring the Salvation Army’s 24-hour confidential Referral Helpline on 0300 3038151 .