Hertfordshire takes part in national initiative to tackle labour exploitation
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Hertfordshire Constabulary have been supporting the most recent national initiative to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT).
The latest phase of activity, under ‘Operation Aidant’, took place between 6 June and 24 June 2022 with enforcement activity around the county checking businesses for what is known as labour exploitation. Car washes in St Albans, Dacorum and East Herts were subject to unannounced visits by police working with partner agencies.
Hertfordshire’s specialist Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU)* worked with the local Safer Neighbourhood Teams to conduct the visits, alongside officers from the Environment Agency, Herts Fire and Rescue Service, local councils, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Hidden Economy team and their National Minimum Wage team.
During the activity no victims of modern slavery offences were identified at any of the businesses. However, six individuals were identified as working at the locations illegally and an unlicenced house of multiple occupancy (HMO) was identified which is now being addressed by the relevant teams within local councils. The business owners have been served warnings in relation to the breaches of the law surrounding national minimum wages being paid and the employment of illegal workers. Fire alarms are also being installed at several locations to ensure the properties are safe and well managed.
Detective Sergeant Jill Green, from the Serious and Organised Crime Command, said: “Modern Slavery is a serious and often hidden crime which continues to affect people across the UK. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, victims were displaced, and the threat of labour exploitation was heavily impacted as public facing businesses closed often for lengthy periods of time. However, organised immigration crime continued to rise in assisting many to enter the UK who are often vulnerable to becoming victims or being taken advantage of.
“Businesses who employ illegal workers can be issued with fines by the Home Office of up to £20,000 per worker (issued under UK Immigration Law). There are no limits on how many civil penalties the Home Office could issue to an individual business if found to be in breach of their immigration duties. It is important that we tackle such businesses supporting organised crime groups in illegally bringing individuals to the UK.”
Anyone with concerns about human trafficking or modern slavery should call police via 101 or the national Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. In an emergency call 999.
The Beacon hotline 03000 11 55 55 is also open from Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm.