Met may shut down human trafficking unit

The Metropolitan Police may shut its specialist unit to tackle human trafficking because of lack of funding. You might remember this is the second time that the unit has been threatened with closure due to funding issues; last time, it was given a reprieve.

A list of charities including Amnesty, the NSPCC, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking and the Poppy Project have signed a letter urging the Met to keep its unit. The BBC reports:

In their letter, they say: “Human trafficking is a complex, sensitive issue.

“Given the continually evolving nature of the crime, it has taken the Human Trafficking Team and Non-Governmental Organisations working in the field a number of years to develop their expertise in the area.

“Policing trafficking for forced labour, domestic servitude and all other forms of exploitation requires specialist knowledge and understanding of trafficking, dedicated resources and commitment.”

‘Financial pressures’

The charities also warn that when London plays host to the 2012 Olympics it could become even more of a magnet for the traffickers because experience shows that where large number of people gather there is an increased demand for sexual services.

A Met Police spokesman said it had been conducting a review about its response to “all organised immigration crime and trafficking”.

“This has yet to be ratified but proposes clubs and vice [team] have enhanced resources and take over trafficking for sexual exploitation investigations.”

It sounds very much like Kate Allen from Amnesty is right when she speculates this could lead to trafficking people into forced labour and domestic servitude risks being forgotten, and even when it comes to trafficking for sexual exploitation “there’s a danger that transferring responsibility for combating trafficking to other police teams will mean that hard-earnt expertise will be lost within the police”.

Mary Honeyball has started a petition to save the unit, which will be presented to Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met Police commissioner.