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Local press urged to heed Scotland Yard call to watch small ads for trafficking victims

December 2, 2010 12:01 AM

Lib Dem MEP Liz Lynne has urged local newspaper editors in the West Midlands region to monitor small ads and personal columns for signs of human trafficking.

The move by the Liz Lynne, a longstanding campaigner against human trafficking, follows a letter to local papers in London from a top Scotland Yard anti-trafficking cop who believes criminal gangs are now using local newspaper advertisements to try to find new 'customers' to exploit trafficked women and young girls under their control.

The call comes as campaigners mark today, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, with renewed calls for more efforts to fight modern day slavery by gangs of human traffickers.

In his letter, Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, Commander of Scotland Yard's Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Unit urges editors to look at small ads for massage parlours or personal services for signs that the 'services' on offer relate to trafficked women forced to work without their consent.

Liz Lynne worked closely with chief constables on the Blue Blindfold public awareness campaign in 2009 urging people to voice their suspicions of human trafficking activity.

Liz Lynne said: "Scotland Yard officers have not just worked on trafficking cases in London but have also helped West Midlands Police arrest gangs involved in this despicable crime in Birmingham and other parts of the country.

"There have been some significant convictions but many campaigners and police officers believe that so far we have only seen the tip of an iceberg.

"It would be useful for local newspapers in this region who are close to their communities to keep an eye open for signs of human trafficking gangs. Sadly we know they are not confined to London but have been found operating here, and take extra care on the wording of adverts which they carry.

"Adverts for massage parlours, saunas or escort agencies, especially with words suggesting young or exotic foreign 'models' are sometimes a front for international traffickers trying to make money out of their victims.

"The police initiative also highlights the need for anyone with suspicions of human trafficking activity to tip off the local police. There is no need to give your name, you can use the Crimestoppers phone number anonymously on 0800 555111."

l Liz Lynne, MEP for the West Midlands region, also welcomed the recent announcement of a deal between British and Chinese police for joint operations to target 'Snake Head' gangs trafficking Chinese women into the UK for prostitution. The deal, announced after David Cameron's recent visit to China follows on from the successful prosecution and jailing of a large Snake Head gang operating in Worcestershire and the Black Country in 2009. Chinese officials met the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London to agree details last week.


Note to editors:

The text of the letter from DCS Martin to editors in London : http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/resources/files/13076/

Liz Lynne has campaigned against human trafficking for many years, as shadow rapporteur for a European Parliament report, the author of written declaration and parliamentary questions on the issue. A resolution passed by the Parliament earlier this year included an amendment from Liz Lynne calling for more measures to support the victims, including increased provision of dedicated accommodation and specialist support services. She launched the Blue Blindfold trafficking awareness campaign with former chief constable Grahame Maxwell in 2009. It is estimated that 4000 women, children and men are trafficked into the UK each year.