Sussex Police and UK Border Force have run an operation at Gatwick Airport to try to rescue people being trafficked into Britain.
Officers from Sussex Police routinely carry out operations at Gatwick to target routes that are believed to be used to bring people into the country to be exploited.
To coincide with National Anti-Slavery Day, extra teams were deployed at the airport on Saturday (October 18) to check flights from countries in Europe and the Far East and speak to passengers that they feared could be being trafficked.
Officers were at both the north and south terminals to meet nine flights from Vietnam, Sweden, Latvia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Norway.
There was no prior information that anyone arriving at the airport was either involved in trafficking people or was being trafficked but the operation allowed officers to gather intelligence and raise awareness about the issue.
People who arrived at Gatwick Airport suspected of being trafficked were spoken to by officers to prevent them being exploited as well as those who had come to meet them.
A number of people were spoken to in relation to human trafficking and intelligence gathered. No victims were identified on Saturday but anybody who was spoken to and thought to be at risk to this kind of offence had their details recorded. The day of action was not just about pursuing offenders but also prevention and protection.
Detective Inspector Jacqui Jenkins, from Sussex Police’s public protection team, said: “We know that people are trafficked into the country to be exploited in a variety of ways, from forced labour, to commit crime or for sexual exploitation.
“People often come to this country believing that they are heading for a better life. They may pay huge amounts of money to the trafficker to get here and once in Britain they find themselves under the control of traffickers who physically and mentally abuse them whilst often keeping them in appalling living conditions to earn money for the trafficker.
“This terrible crime affects vulnerable men, women and children who are exploited simply because of their weaknesses to profit the traffickers. Victims are often trafficked and through fear or coercion they are forced to work for little or no money.
“We know that modern slavery is much closer than many people think and we continue to work with our partners to prevent people falling victim to trafficking, to protect and support those who do fall victim and to pursue offenders through the identification and disruption of their activities and their prosecution.
“Modern slavery happens all over the world, including the UK. We are working hard to uncover any trace of modern slavery in the county.”
If you are a victim or you know someone who might be email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 101 or to seek help or report concerns call the Modern Slavery helpline 0800 0121700. Calls are free from landlines and most mobile networks.