VICTIMS of slavery are being trafficked through the city’s port to be kept as slaves, it has been revealed.
The shocking revelation comes as Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes today announces a major county-wide effort to uncover the hidden horror of modern slavery.
Police last year identified 40 possible victims of human trafficking in Hampshire, including five children – but fear this is only a fraction of victims kept in desperate situations.
And The News can today reveal in the last 18 months young children – who may have been trafficked – arriving on their own at Portsmouth International Port have been put into care locally.
Police have also investigated organised prostitution in the city to try and identify victims of trafficking.
Little detail has been given about the cases other than their existence.
Modern slavery is happening to people of any age, they’re sold like objects with little or no hope and they live in fear and squalorHampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes
Now police have joined forces with others agencies and issued a rallying ‘call to responsibility’ to businesses, charities and the public to report signs.
Jess Gealer, co-ordinator of the Modern Slavery Partnership, said: ‘Portsmouth is absolutely an entry point for trafficked victims and they’re slipping through our county.
‘It’s about stopping that and recognising them as vulnerable people. They are not illegal or irregular migrants.’
She added: ‘A lot of trafficking victims are coming in the back of lorries, hiding in commercial lorries, and coming out at night in the port.’
The Home Office told The News it has safeguarding and human trafficking Border Force teams with specialist training to identify victims of trafficking.
Human trafficking is moving a person from one place to another to be exploited. Traffickers use deception, coercion, abuse of power or target the vulnerable.
The new £70,000 Modern Slavery Partnership is working to free people from desperate situations – including sexual exploitation and forced labour in nail bars, car washes and in agriculture.
Mr Hayes said: ‘Modern slavery is happening to people of any age, they’re sold like objects with little or no hope and they live in fear and squalor.
‘Passports are withheld, identities are withheld, control is through drug and alcohol dependency and even restricted control with the outside world with emotional and physical abuse. This is all modern slavery.’
He said perpetrators range from organised gangs to individuals keeping people in slavery in domestic situations.
The 40 victims included four people sexually exploited, four children from Vietnam trafficked and seven people forced into criminality including shoplifting and cannabis farms.
Hampshire Constabulary chief constable Andy Marsh added: ‘Without a doubt we’ve got a problem with modern slavery in Hampshire.’
Possible slavery victims are referred to the National Referral Mechanism for assessment – 2,340 were referred last year.
The top nationalities referred to the UK Trafficking Centre in 2014 were Albanian, Nigerian and Vietnamese. British nationals were sixth highest.
Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first independent anti-slavery commissioner told The News it can only be tackled in together.
He said he commends the Hampshire initiative, adding: ‘I think this is a really big step forward, I think I’d like to see it replicated across the United Kingdom.’
But he gave a grim warning about the reality of slavery. He said: ‘When a victim is rescued what does the criminal do? They go and find another victim. That’s why it’s important these people are identified and taken out of circulation.’