WORK tackling slavery has been praised at a major conference in Portsmouth.
Hampshire’s Modern Slavery Partnership was launched four months ago by the county’s police and the crime commissioner Simon Hayes.
Home Office experts, charities and police working in the field met at the Guildhall in Portsmouth to discuss defeating the hidden crime.
The News previously revealed how young children – who may have been trafficked – arrived on their own at Portsmouth International Port have been put into care.
Prostitution rings have also been investigated for slavery.
Mr Hayes said: ‘We know nationally and locally that there’s an increase in reported cases of human trafficking and exploitation.
‘We think this is hugely under-reported.
‘What we’re also seeing is that it’s not just foreign nationals who are coming in to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, it’s British nationals who are being trafficked around the country.’
He added Hampshire officers had seen evidence of people trafficked in vans with their hands tied.
Insp Dave Humphries, a neighbourhood police inspector for Waterlooville and Hayling Island, leads on slavery for the police in that area.
He spoke at the conference yesterday.
Speaking afterwards he said: ‘It’s not just a problem in the sweatshops of India and factories of China – it’s a problem that is all around us in our communities now.’
‘It is a problem in our communities.
‘Part of my role is understanding what that looks like in local communities and identifying it.’
He added: ‘One of the significant areas of slavery is debt bondage – people who are kept to work in a particular way because of the money they owe just to get here.
‘In other examples it’s the promise of a better life in another country and the trafficking of people is facilitated and when they get here they find that’s not the case but there’s no way out.
‘At best, this is about desperate people who really want help – at worst this is serious organised crime, and a real problem.’
Speakers included Di Killian, operations officer at the Medaille Trust and Tez Ilyas at the Home Office.