Human traffickers strategically utilise their global networks to maximise profit. If we are to minimise the profitability of modern slavery crime globally and nationally then government and law enforcement must do the same.
This means building strong partnerships here in the UK to maximise our resources and utilise the tools provided by the Modern Slavery Act while working closely with international partners and making the most of the mechanisms we have access to, in order to enhance law enforcement’s response to transnational modern slavery crime.
In our globalised and technology driven world criminal gangs are able to operate in numerous countries, moving on low-cost flights, communicating across continents on throw away sim cards and social media and running on complex international illicit financial operations.
In the presence of such global webs of criminality, police forces cannot operate in isolation. Collaboration and information sharing through the development of bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships is essential. Such partnerships can take different forms but need to be based around improving the ability to share and exchange data, understanding each other’s operating systems and establishing common pathways so that investigations can run swiftly and smoothly across borders.
Currently institutions such as EUROPOL and EUROJUST work to do this and are incredibly valuable in facilitating this information exchange and closing intelligence gaps through the provision of access to databases and enabling cross-border intelligence gathering. Since my appointment as Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner I have been actively encouraging police forces across the UK to take advantage of tools such as joint investigations teams (JITs), which are run out of EUROJUST, having seen the benefit they bring first hand in my previous role as head of the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking Unit. In fact, in the last five years, the UK has participated in a third of all JITs set up, with sixteen established to tackle human trafficking.
It is vital that the UK maintains strong relationships with law enforcement partners across the EU and works to ensure continued access to tools such as JITs, European Arrest Warrants and EUROPOL databases. We need to ensure that criminals do not choose the UK as an attractive venue to pursue criminality, especially on account of a lack of access to, or ability to gather, intelligence on organised and abusive criminality.
Just as operational work needs to be proactive and international, so too does the UK’s work to promote best practice in the fight against human trafficking in Europe and beyond. Maintaining strong working relationships with all relevant partners is central to this.
Kevin Hyland OBE